Authorities in Pakistan have applied for duty-free exports to the European market under the EU's Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme.

The scheme, which will be effective for ten years from 1 January 2014, offers reduced or zero tariff rates for developing countries that fulfil its criteria.

To qualify, exports of the applicant country should account for less than 2% of the EU's total GSP imports, and the country should not be declared as a middle or high middle income country by the World Bank.

In addition it also has to prove that it abides by 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environment, narcotics control and good governance.

Sources at Pakistan's ministry of commerce say the country has ratified all the conventions, but could face issues on their implementation.

The process will take eight to ten months, initially before the European Commission (EC), followed by the European Parliament for approval, said Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, EU Ambassador to Pakistan.

Currently Pakistan enjoys tariff preferences under the temporary EU Autonomous Trade Preferential Arrangement for 75 items - most of which are textiles, clothing and footwear. This arrangement stands until 31 December 2013.

Gohar Ejaz, group leader and ex-chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), told just-style that if Pakistan was granted GSP+, the country's textile and clothing exports could nearly double to US$22bn in three years from the current level of US$12.4bn.

Pakistan is the fifth largest textile and clothing supplier to the EU with an annual trade volume of over EUR8bn. Textile and clothing exports rose 8.4% in the first seven months of fiscal 2013.