The Price of EU Trade Concessions


So many people complained when Zardari continued his trip to EU despite the flooding. There are valid arguments that he could have brought some relief by being with the people in their time of suffering, but even that would have a trade-off because he would have had to cancel a very important diplomatic trip. It was a difficult decision, and one that I’m glad I did not have to make. Honestly, you’re got to have a lot of personal hatred to assume the man doesn’t care for his people. But now, even the Zardari haters are eating a plate of crow.

I wrote at the time that,

Zardari’s trip to London, while mocked by our intelligentsia, has actually resulted in the following:

1. Increased aid from UK for flood victims

2. Repairing diplomatic relations

3. Furthering talks about opening European markets to Pakistani exports

Well, it looks like the much-maligned trip continues to pay dividends. Financial Times reported yesterday that the EU has agreed to waive tariffs on a number of exports, in large part thanks to the help of UK PM David Cameron.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, and Lady Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, emerged as champions of the Pakistani cause amid reservations from France, Italy, Portugal and Poland that any concessions would come at the expense of their domestic textile industries.

Mr Cameron said: “I believe this was a test for the EU to make sure that when we talk about our external relations we deliver results, not just rhetoric.”

Remember this was just after PM Cameron made some stupid remarks about Pakistan being an exporter of terror and the media hate squads were going crazy saying that Zardari should cancel the trip can cut all ties with the UK. Well, what exactly would that have acheived?

Instead, Zardari decided to take the hard road and head to London where he was able to do some real and lasting good. It’s because he made this hard decision that we were able to get some trade concessions that will help Pakistan to start to rebuild its own economy and get away from the patten of international aid and conditional loans. Isn’t that what we really want?

For this decision, should the president be treated to such vicious insults and accusations, saying that he doesn’t care about his people and that he doesn’t feel their suffering? And yet this was the price he paid for securing these tariff waivers that will help feed a lot more people than a couple of photo shoots and a publicity campaign. That’s what real leadership is, after all – being willing to make the unpopular decision that you know will have the better results.

Now that this episode has come full circle and we are seeing the results of the infamous trip, will the media darlings show the slightest amount of humility and admit that they were wrong? Or is their hatred so visceral that they cannot even show this basic respect? It will be telling to see.