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No decision yet on RoZs

The News, Pakistan

No decision yet on RoZs

5 October 2006

ISLAMABAD: The United States has not decided so far as to what will be manufactured in the much-talked Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) proposed by US President George W bush during his visit to Pakistan in March 2006.

The US President was of the view that people living in the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, who are prone to play at the hands of terrorists, need jobs and prosperity and to this effect RoZs should be constructed there.

Under the plan the products, which will be manufactured in RoZs, will be exported to the US on zero tariff duty and this will bring maximum prosperity to these certain areas.

Assistant United States Trade Representative for South Asia Douglas A Hartwick told here on Wednesday during a press briefing after the two-day parleys on TIFA (Trade Investment and Facilitation Agreement) between Pakistan and US, that the next TIFA meeting is scheduled for 2007 in Washington.

When asked if US will allow Pakistani businessmen to install their textile units in ROZs in major proportion if compared with other products to be manufactured there, he said that nothing has been finalised to this effect.

The products, which will be manufactured in RoZs will be finalised by experts of US, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, Pakistan has been asked to coordinate with Afghanistan with regard to construction of RoZs.

The authorities concerned in the United States will try to make legislation soon on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) at border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, Mr Hartwick failed to give timeframe for legislation on RoZs.

When asked if it is possible to further strengthen bilateral trade ties in the presence of travel advisory imposed by USA, he admitted that in the wake of 9/11 events, authorities concerned in USA have imposed the travel advisory against Pakistan due to which US citizens are warned of visiting Pakistan. He said that US has imposed travel advisory against many countries and not only against Pakistan only.

The travel advisory would be reviewed as soon as the law and order situation improves in Pakistan and assurances are provided for safety of every US citizen.

He justified the travel advisory by referring to the two life attempts made on President General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, in which Mr President narrowly escaped.

During the two-day talks, both sides have formed the Joint Study Group on trade liberalization to explore ways and means to enhance the bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

The terms of references will soon be finalised for the Joint Study Group, Pakistan’s secretary commerce Asif Shah said. The Assistant USTR also mentioned that during the two days talks both sides also deliberated in length the issue of GSP (Generalized System of Preferences). He said Pakistan is still enjoying GSP.

Under GSP, Pakistan’s exports have risen to $100 million. He said By December 31, the current GSP law will be over and next GSP law will be in place and in the next GSP, Pakistan will continue to benefit.

He said that there are also discussions going on in the US that exiting GSP should be extended for one or two years to important trading partners.

He also disclosed that most of Pakistani entrepreneurs are not aware of the facilities which US extends to Pakistan under GSP which is why the wrong impression has been developed against USA and Pakistan is not really benefiting the GSP scheme.

He said facilities are there, but it is the job of Pakistani entrepreneurs to take benefits out of them.

To a question he said that US did take up the issue of transit to Indian goods for Afghanistan and discussed the regional trade under SAFTA.

Asif Shah, Secretary Commerce also responded that there are some administrative problems with regard to transit of goods under Afghan Transit Trade Agreement. “As far as Indian goods are concerned they are also allowed through ATTA for Afghanistan.”

On intellectual property rights, the US delegation praised Pakistan’s progress in strengthening its intellectual property regime.

The delegations identified areas for continued cooperation to strengthen protection. The United States noted the need for further progress on issues, such as data protection and patents.

Hartwick announced new US assistance for capacity building for Pakistani Ministry of Health and Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The two sides explored new ways to expand trade including greater use of the US GSP program, diversification of trade, textiles, and agriculture.

Ambassador Hartwick commended Pakistan for its commitment to expanding economic opportunities through economic reforms, reducing tariffs, and pursuing open investment policies.