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Investment treaty: Pakistan, US fail to make progress

Dawn | Karachi | 21 January 2006

Investment treaty Pakistan, US fail to make progress

By Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD, Jan 20: Pakistan and United States on Friday concluded the fourth round of talks on the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which remained inconclusive due to differences on some clauses of the agreement.

Senior US officials following the meeting told Dawn that the both sides made a little progress in the negotiations but hoped to conclude the agreement by end of the current fiscal year.

“It will be very difficult to predict exact date for the conclusion of the agreement. We will continue to work with Pakistani colleagues in future and try to conclude it in distinct future,” the US officials said.

When asked about the issue which were yet to be resolved, they said it was not possible for them to disclose it because of the sensitivity and negotiating strategy.

The officials, requesting not to be named, said that both sides reached the middle of the negotiations. “We need more rounds for reaching consensus on the remaining clauses of the agreement. We concluded BITs with other countries like Canada, Chile and Singapore in many rounds,” they added.

They said that a next date for the fifth round was not decided as yet.

Answering a question, the officials said that there was no linkage between the signing of BIT with the initiation of talks on free trade agreement (FTA) with Pakistan. “Both are separate agreements,” they added.

Investment was one chapter of the FTA, they said, added that the signing of the BIT would make it easier to make progress in other areas like tariff cutting the agreement.

When asked about the arbitration clauses of the BIT, the US officials made it clear that they would stick to their position on this account. “We have a model agreement and we would have to stick to it. We negotiated more or less the same agreement with other countries,” they added.

“The perception about Pakistan needs to be changed. We recognize the security issue in Pakistan. This is a big hurdle in attracting foreign investment particularly the US investment,” they said. Pakistan needs to improve the investment climate, they added.

When asked about the travel advisory being issued to the US citizens, the officials said that it was not part of the BIT.

“We hope that Pakistan might receive the US investment following the signing of the treaty. However, the macroeconomic situation in Pakistan improved during the last years, which would help in attracting investment,” they noted.

The agreement would not only facilitate investment from the United States but would also encourage Pakistani investors for making investment in the US. “We are also larger recipient of the foreign direct investment (FDI) and looking more as well,” they added.

They said that Pakistan had made significant move in the enforcement of the intellectual property rights (IPRs) laws.

Answering a question, they said that US government was considering a package to be announced soon for providing technical assistance to Pakistan in the enforcement of IPRs laws.

Replying another query, they said that the agreement would be finalized at the technical level and there was no need to take up the issue at a higher level.

The investment would be carried out on the positive list approach. However, the US officials said that Pakistan has a liberal regime and might have limited restriction on investment. Both sides agreed to cap restriction on investment.

Pakistan and Washington started talk on BIT since 2004. Both sides held so far four rounds for concluding the agreement to promote bilateral investment and provide more protection to the investors.

 source: Dawn