Trade-linked aid to Pakistan tops Europe talks

Europe is likely to offer trade-linked aid to help Pakistan battle flood devastation and fears of rising Islamist extremism at an EU summit next week, diplomatic sources said on Saturday.

Updated: Sep 11, 2010, 20:11 PM IST

Brussels: Europe is likely to offer
trade-linked aid to help Pakistan battle flood devastation and
fears of rising Islamist extremism at an EU summit next week,
diplomatic sources said on Saturday.

Hosting a two-day informal parley of foreign ministers
from the 27-nation bloc, EU diplomatic supremo Catherine
Ashton said Pakistan needed wide support -- ranging through
aid, institution-building, anti-terror assistance,
reconstruction and trade.

"Everyone agrees we have to think comprehensively,"
Ashton said.

"If we want to stabilise Pakistan, so that it doesn`t
degenerate into extremism and fundamentalism, we have to
address the economic consequences of this natural
catastrophe," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

After the floods turned some 21 million lives upside down
and left 1,760 dead, Ashton suggested special exemptions from
trade tariffs.

"It is in the vital strategic interest of the European
Union to help Pakistan in the longterm with trade," said
British Foreign Secretary William Hague as the talks wound
down.

"I hope there will be agreement on it" at the September
16 summit, he added. "There has been really strong support
from the foreign ministers for some decisive action to be
taken."

EU leaders will have three options to ease Pakistani
goods into Europe -- offering duty-free access on some goods,
deciding a unilateral waiver with WTO agreement, or lowering
Most Favoured Nation tariff on some products.

Most EU nations favoured a waiver for a limited list of
products, diplomatic sources said.

The European Commission, which polices EU trade matters,
asked ministers to consider ditching tariff barriers on 13
types of textile product, in an effort to kick-start an
economic fightback.

"We cannot stand on the sidelines," said Belgian Foreign
Minister Steven Vanackere, after the issue of "how we`ll do
it" was passed up from trade to foreign ministers.

PTI