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US not keen to sign free trade agreement with Pakistan: BoI

Khaleej Times

US not keen to sign free trade agreement with Pakistan: BoI


19 November 2007

ISLAMABAD - The United States has expressed its serious concern over the continuation of emergency rule in Pakistan and said Washington was no more interested to sign the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Islamabad.

It has also put forwarded severe conditions even to conclude the much awaited Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the two countries.

"We have been informed that the United States is not keen to sign FTA with Pakistan. The US side believes that Pakistan’s socio-political fundamentals are not right for FTA", Secretary Board of Investment (BoI) Mushtaq Malik told this correspondent.

He said that the Bush administration did not seem to be willing to ink this FTA, although the issue had been discussed threadbare at various levels.

As far as BIT was concerned, he pointed out, Pakistan could not afford to accept strict conditions to opt for it. "The kind of concessions, they (Americans) are seeking from us to sign BIT cannot be given", the secretary BoI said.

"Today if we grant these concessions to the United States under BIT, we will have to offer the same to 48 other countries with whom Pakistan had signed this treaty previously", he said. However, Malik said that the issue was not totally abandoned as Pakistan was still to officially respond to Washington. He said the issue was currently with the attorney general of Pakistan and since he was too busy in other matters, Islamabad could not reply to Washington in the immediate future.

The US side, he said, had finally given its mind for signing BIT but since there involved some legal issues, Pakistan government was still consulting its legal experts including the attorney general. Some of the conditions, he said, were simply unacceptable to Pakistan for which the issue was yet to be further discussed concluded. But he did not like to divulge in the legal issues concerning the treaty. "We would like to wait for some time to respond to US conditions", he added.

Earlier, Pakistan had asked the United States to make BIT a part of the proposed FTA instead of signing them separately in order to remove persisting differences between the two sides over the issue.

So far, sources said, that both the governments have failed to remove their differences over BIT particularly because of the United States which kept on seeking unprecedented protection of American investment in Pakistan.

Pakistan had been proposing to the United States to sign FTA in line with the agreements earlier it signed with a number of countries including Qatar, Oman, Behrain, Singapore and a couple of South American countries.

"We have proposed that FTA should have certain portion of investment rather than having a full fledge BIT keeping in view the hardened position taken by both the sides over the issue", a source said.

According to sources, both sides were not willing to soften their hardened stand over BIT although US had earlier accepted that the "judicial and legislative actions" of Pakistan should not be allowed to be challenged in any international court of law.

The US side, they said, had conceded to differentiate between the "bad faith and the error of judgment" and that the decisions announced by superior courts of Pakistan will not be challenged without any legitimate justification.

In return, Pakistan had accepted that the treaty will be applied with retrospective effect, meaning that any thing pertaining to the existing American investment could also be challenged.
Pakistan, in this regard, had assured the US government that it will be obligatory to Pakistan to give compensation to the US investors in case of their disputes which had not been settled.

 source: Khaleej Times