Zee News, India
Pak links US trade pact to war on terror
5 August 2006
Washington, Aug 05: Pakistan’s Commerce Minister has pressed for talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, billing such a pact as a "powerful tool" in the battle against extremism.
Hamayan Akhtar Khan said yesterday that he hoped for progress towards talks on an FTA in the near future, framing Pakistan’s drive for a deal in the context of its role in Washington’s anti-terror war.
"We do not have a nod right now, we expect in the very near future we will have something positive," said Khan when asked by reporters whether he had been given a date when Washington was willing to open FTA talks.
"I expect in the very near future we will have something positive."
But Stephen Norton, a spokesman for US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, played down expectations of speedy talks with Pakistan on an FTA.
President George W Bush’s room for flexibility on trade deals looks set to be curtailed as his trade promotion authority — which lets the administration submit deals to a ’yes or no’ vote in Congress — expires next June.
"I would say there is probably not sufficient time to enter into and complete negotiations on an FTA before that time, given the number of free trade agreements that are already in the works," Norton said.
But he added: "We’re in talks on a business and investment treaty. We’re making some progress there and certainly the components of a business and investment treaty would be the basis for an FTA."