World

EU agrees at summit to waive tariffs to help Pakistan recover from flooding

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union declared Thursday it will temporarily waive World Trade Organization tariffs on key Pakistani imports to help boost the flood-devastated country's economy.

The 27-nation bloc agreed at a summit in Brussels to grant Pakistan immediate, although temporary, import duty relief both as a humanitarian gesture and as a way to help the country prevent Islamic extremists from exploiting economic instability.

"The severity of this crisis demands an immediate and substantial response," the EU said in a declaration.

"A stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan is key to addressing global issues such as counterterrorism, nonproliferation or counter-narcotics."

The EU already has committed millions of euros in aid to help Pakistan recover from the devastation. It also wanted to craft a long-term strategy to help the country get its economy back on track amid fears Islamic extremists could exploit the crisis to strengthen their hold on northwestern regions close to the border with Afghanistan.

"There is a humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, there are also clear and very worrying concerns about what can happen in Pakistan with all that is going on, and all the dangers that everyone is aware of," British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.

The decision on Pakistan was a success story at a summit blighted by infighting over France's much-criticized expulsions of Gypsies.

"I believe this was a test for the European Union to make sure that when we talk about our external relations we can show we can deliver results and not just rhetoric," Cameron told reporters.

The final details of which exports will be covered and how long the waiver will last will be worked out by the European Commission by October, he said.

Diplomats have said the move could be worth between euro230-euro300 million ($290-$380 million) a year for Pakistan.

Similar waivers were adopted to help countries recover after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake that flattened large swaths of Haiti in January.

Extremely heavy monsoon rains unleashed floods in northwest Pakistan at the end of July and the disaster spread south, killing more than 1,700 people and affecting another 17 million.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations warned recently that the flooding has stretched thin the Pakistani military and will hamper its fight against terrorists.

The EU also agreed to look at granting Pakistan a favored trading status with the EU after 2014, Cameron said.