Pakistan's textile exporters will be among the beneficiaries of a new 6.5 million euros trade assistance programme signed last week with the European Union.

The three-year agreement is designed to help increase the export competitiveness of key industry sectors including textiles, which are one of the EU's main imports from Pakistan.

Its timing is of particular relevance as the quota system under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing will cease to exist on 1 January 2005, creating new trading opportunities for large textiles exporting countries such as Pakistan.

The EU will contribute 5 million euros to the three-year programme which has a total budget of 6.511 million euros. The Government of Pakistan is contributing 1.111 million euros.

The overall objective of the programme is to assist Pakistan by fostering its integration into the world economy and, ultimately, to alleviate poverty by creating the trade conditions for stable economic growth.

Speaking in Islamabad, Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations, said: "Pakistan is changing fast. Impressive progress in key sectors of the economy, mean its core industries are ready to compete in the world market.

"Europe wants to help Pakistan take its place in the global economy, and this package is designed to do just that".