Daily Times, Lahore, 16 July 2004
US agrees to sign FTA with Pakistan
By Khalid Mustafa
ISLAMABAD: The United States has agreed to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Pakistan, a senior government official told Daily Times.
The official said the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in its latest communication to the government has informed that the US is ready to sign FTA, but it would be inked after the materialisation of Trade Investment Facilitation Agreement (TIFA), which was signed on June 25, 2003 during the visit of President Pervez Musharraf to the US.
The official said Pakistan and the USA are likely to hold talks on TIFA in Washington some time in late August or early September. Earlier, talks on TIFA were earlier proposed to be held some time in July.
“In August there will be official holidays in the US, therefore talks on TIFA are most likely to be held in September,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan would try to pass bill through the parliament to set up Pakistan Intellectual Property Rights Organization so that US concerns could be allayed with regard to functioning of the PIPRO. PIPRO would start functioning soon after the bill gets approval from the parliament, the official said.
Earlier, the USA was reluctant to show its willingness to sign FTA with Pakistan, as the USA did not want to annoy any big country in the region.
But, the official said, in the wake of increasing importance of Pakistan, the USA has decided to ink FTA as the country has already inked preferential trade agreement (PTA) with China and would soon ink FTA with China. Pakistan is also on the verge of signing PTA with Turkey, Iran and ECO countries. Pakistan is also trying to sign preferential trade pact with D-8 countries.
“Keeping in view all theses factors, the USA might have thought that future relation would be interlinked with trade ties and the USA cannot afford to lose country like Pakistan,” the official said.
“Russia is also keen to enter into a similar arrangement with Pakistan to enhance trade volume.”
To a question, the official said talks on TIFA would have three stages, which includes the inaugural session in which bilateral investment treaty (BIT) would be signed according to which both the countries would provide investment security to each other’s companies.
“This would give impetus to the existing trade volume,” he said and added after that next stage will be signing of PTA and then FTA. The official said existing trade volume between Pakistan and USA stands at almost $5 billion as Pakistan’s exports are in the range of $2.5 billion to $3 billion while imports from the USA stands at around $1.75 billion.