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ECC approves Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka

Daily Times, Pakistan

19 January 2005

ECC approves Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka

- Okays import of 50,000 tonnes of sugar, cut in duty on ship imports, tax break for 200 textile mills
- Decisions on wheat import and privatisation of gas companies deferred

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet has approved the signing of a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka.

The ECC, which met on Tuesday, also allowed the further import of 50,000 tonnes of raw sugar, reduced $100 per tonne duty on the import of ships for the ship-breaking industry, and approved a no-duty, no-drawback regime for 200 textile mills, an official said. Decisions on the further import of wheat and restructuring or privatisation of gas companies were deferred.

Dr Waqar Masood, special secretary to the prime minister, told reporters after the meeting that the FTA with Sri Lanka would be signed during the Sri Lankan president’s upcoming visit to Pakistan.

He said the ECC had allowed the import of 50,000 tonnes of raw sugar to bolster domestic stocks. He said that the cabinet would consider the import of refined sugar after Eid if existing stocks were depleted and prices improved. Masood said that the cabinet hoped the decision to cut duty from $400 per tonne to $300 on the import of ships would revive the ailing ship-breaking industry.

He said that the no-duty, no-drawback regime would initially be applied to 200 major textile mills in CBR’s gold category who would not be required to pay sales tax on the purchase of cotton. These mills qualify because they export 70 percent of their total production.

He said that the textile industry would be provided a tax-free facility on the import and purchase of inputs for the manufacturing of textile products at a later stage. Masood also said that the ECC had not taken any decision about the further import of wheat and restructuring of two public sector gas companies.

He said that the government had decided to increase hydropower generation to offset the electricity losses caused by the disruption of gas supplies from Sui to power generation plants. He said the gas supply would be restored in the next two or three days. Tribesmen angry at the gang rape of a woman doctor attacked gas facilities in Sui in Balochistan with rockets, damaging a purification plant and pipelines.


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