Business Recorder, Pakistan
Prime Minister hints at early FTA with US
ON BOARD SPECIAL AIRCRAFT (January 26 2006): US President George W Bush has instructed Trade Representative Rob Portman to expedite the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan which will give tremendous boost to exports to the US, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told newsmen on board flight while returning home after weeklong visit to US which he described as very successful.
Shaukat Aziz said that he had discussed the FTA during his meeting with the trade representative, which could not be signed in the absence of bilateral investment treaty (BIT).
He said that though this treaty was under negotiations for several years but no progress has been achieved because of differences on certain clauses. The Prime Minister said that he brought up this matter during his meeting with President Bush wherein Rob Portman was also present. "President Bush directed the USTR to expedite the BIT and FTA with Pakistan, which is strategic partner of the US, on priority basis," Shaukat Aziz said.
Secretary Commerce Asif Shah told Business Recorder that after getting directions from the top leadership teams of the two countries had a meeting and held fruitful discussions.
Pakistan team included senior advisor Sharifuddin Pirzada, Minister for Textile Mushtaq Cheema, the secretary commerce and special secretary to the PM.
Asif Shah said that US team is coming to Pakistan early next month to finalise the treaty. The commerce secretary hoped that there may be 100 percent increase in textile exports to US with easy and duty free access to its markets which are around $3 billion at present, adding increase of $1 billion export provides jobs to 200,000 people.
Sources have expressed the hope that BIT and FTA may be finalised before President Bush’s forthcoming visit to Pakistan. Businessmen told this scribe that this was one of the biggest achievements of the Prime Minister’s visit, as Shaukat Aziz stressed the need of greater trade and US investment in Pakistan during his meetings with the Bush administration, legislators, and WB officials.
Later, the Prime Minister returned to Islamabad after a weeklong visit of the US.