Reacting to reports that more than 289 people had died in the Karachi clothing factory fire, West Midlands Euro MP Phil Bennion said the disaster highlighted the need for the EU to help the government crack down on corruption and enforce safety laws properly.
The Lib Dem MEP, whose constituency includes hundreds of thousands of people from the Pakistani diaspora, was part of an EU Parliamentary Delegation visit to Islamabad in July.
Dr Bennion's comments come on the day the European Parliament is expected to give final approval for a series of trade concessions for Pakistan, including textiles, which the UK coalition government has been pressing for since the devastating floods of 2010.
He said: "This is one of the worst fires in recent industrial history and I offer my condolences to the relatives of those who died. It seems likely that some of them live in the Midlands, given the close ties between our two countries.
"Even at this stage it seems clear that the reason so many were killed was that fire safety rules were not being followed, with reports of locked exit doors and windows blocked by grills, trapping workers inside.
"I am one of the strongest supporters of trade liberalisation between the EU and Pakistan, but this horrendous loss of life highlights the need for Pakistan not only to ratify international agreements on safety and other labour issues but to enforce them.
"It is sad to hear that on the same day, another 25 people died in a fire in a shoe factory in Lahore. These deaths are preventable.
"I hope the European Parliament today votes to give final approval to the exceptional tariff concessions first proposed after the 2010 floods, which include clothing, and in principle I also support plans to allow Pakistan the equivalent of tariff and quota-free access to EU markets for all exports from 2014.
"But as our delegation emphasised in the talks in Islamabad in July, further progress in this direction depends on complying with UN labour standards.
"Pakistan has ratified all 27 of these agreements but there needs to be evidence that they are being implemented on the ground.
"It is vital that the EU gives the Pakistan Government every possible tool to crack down on corruption and maladministration elsewhere in the country. From the talks I held with Pakistan ministers in July, I believe the central government is sincere in wanting to meet international standards.
"The EU Commission needs to make clear that tough action to enforce factory safety laws are needed for trade liberalisation to be made permanent and widened to other goods, but also to set out a clear and achievable roadmap for ways this can be verified."
Notes: The regulation of introducing emergency autonomous trade preferences (ATP) for Pakistan due to be voted on in the European Parliament today was first suggested as a way of helping the country recover after the devastating floods in 2010 on humanitarian grounds. ( http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2011-0069&language=EN&mode=XML . In many ways the proposal is the brainchild of the UK coalition government who were influential in getting this proposed by the Commission, getting clearance by the World Trade Organisation in February and then having the proposal adopted in the Council of Ministers. The concessions cover 75 categories of products, or over a quarter of all Pakistani exports to the EU. This exceptional regime was cleared by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in February 2012 and has gone back to the European Parliament for final approval in a vote due today.
The EU Parliament South Asia Delegation, of which Phil Bennion was a member, also discussed the so-called GSP Plus scheme for duty and quota-free access for all Pakistan exports to the EU from 2014. The delegation made clear that securing this depended on the country meeting international labour agreements.