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US lawmakers to move resolution for FTA with Pakistan

Daily Times, Pakistan

US lawmakers to move resolution for FTA with Pakistan

* David Dreier says FTA more important than ROZs
* Investors not ready to take a chance in FATA because of law and order situation

By Sajjad Malik

14 November 2009

ISLAMABAD: Visiting US lawmakers on Friday announced they would move a bipartisan resolution in the House of Representatives to seek the early signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Pakistan.

“I want to table a bipartisan resolution in the House to prompt quick action for the signing of an FTA, which is more important than Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs),” Congressman David Dreier told a group of journalists.

The high-level delegation – which includes David Price, Keith Ellison, Charles Boustany, Mazie Hirono, Lois Capps and David Price – met Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, to discuss various issues.

Dreier said since Pakistan wanted trade instead of aid, an FTA was the right mechanism to promote bilateral trade. He said nearly 60 percent of Pakistani trade was with the US, but such an agreement could increase the volume.

Tribal Areas situation: The delegation said issues related to ROZs were still pending, as Pakistan’s security situation had not improved and investors were not ready to take a chance with the Tribal Areas – the region in which ROZs are to be established. The visiting lawmakers also said a lack of infrastructure was another major hurdle in the establishment of up ROZs.

Heading the delegation, David Price said Pakistan had paid a high price in the war on terror, and the US acknowledged the country’s role. He said the US was committed to supporting the elected government, and “one of the purposes of the Kerry-Lugar law is to promote the civilian administration of the country”. He said most of the criticism directed at the bill was a result of “lack of understanding” of the document.

Congresswoman Lois Capps said there was “great potential” in promoting cooperation among female lawmakers of the two countries. She said she had agreed with the National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza to establish a caucus of Pak-US female parliamentarians.

She said women’s empowerment and threats to them from the Taliban were also discussed with Pakistani parliamentarians.

Replying to a question, the delegation said issues related to drone attacks were complicated, but the real issue was countering militancy, and the two countries should work together. They said Afghanistan was not a prominent subject in discussions, which focussed on bilateral issues.

The delegation also met Senate Chairman Farooq Naik, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other parliamentarians to promote bilateral relations.

Another delegation – headed by Congressman John F Tierney, chairman of a US Congress subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs – also met journalists. Delegation members said the purpose of their three-day visit was to ensure the “correct use” of the $ 1.5 billion aid under the Kerry-Lugar law.

Tierney said he interacted with various people to get input on the utilisation of US money in an honest and efficient manner.

Replying to a question, he said it had not been decided how much aid would be spent through government channels.