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US promises to begin talks on FTA soon: Humayun

Daily Times

10 December 2004

US promises to begin talks on FTA soon: Humayun

ISLAMABAD: Humayun Akhtar Khan, the federal commerce minister, said on Thursday that the United States has promised to initiate negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Islamabad soon.

Briefing reporters on the outcome of recent visit of the President General Pervez Musharraf, Mr Khan said the President had taken up the issue of the FTA and market access in his meeting with President George Bush.

“The US president has promised to begin negotiations with Pakistan on FTA.” Mr Khan said the United States Trade Represe-ntative (USTR) would soon initiate negotiations on the issue of market access and FTA with Pakistan.

He said that some Pakistani exporters of certain US categories are facing difficulties in getting their products to the US market due to the imposition of an embargo this year.

“This is mainly in home furnishing categories and two garment categories,” he said and added in order to enable exporters to fulfil their contractual obligations with their buyers the government has devised a strategy to facilitate exporters so that they may be able to ship their consignments in time. The minister said the government would facilitate airlifting of consignments of those exporters, who could not ship their goods in the embargoed categories to the US.

“EPB (Export Promotion Bureau) will arrange airlifting of the cargo by PIA. The period of this airlifting facility will be offered from January 1 to January 20,” he said and added that the EPB has already issued a public notice and will provide further information to exporters.

He said for those goods, which have already reached the US and are now on-hold due to the embargo, the facility of freight subsidy would be provided for routing the blocked consignments to the next port of destination if exporters so desire.

“In case exporters want to surrender their quota in these over-shipped categories and request equivalent quota in other categories, the EPB will accommodate such request to the extent possible,” he said. “All exporters who made shipments prior to EPB’s announcement of visa restrictions will be provided visas.”

Trade with Latin America: Mr Khan said MERCOSUR is the most important regional tariff agreements (RTAs) in the Latin America, which comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

He said during the visit of President Musharraf, Pakistan had offered preferential tariff arrangement (PTA) leading to a free trade agreement (FTA) with MERCOSUR. Brazil and Argentina have agreed to begin negotiations with Pakistan for a MERCOSUR like preferential economic cooperation arrangement, he added.

“Mexico is the largest trader of Latin America and a member of NAFTA. Pakistan had offered PTA with Mexico, which has agreed to constitute a joint commission for trade and investment with Pakistan,” he said and added the commission will also undertake a study on a Mexico-Pakistan PTA.

GSP Plus scheme: About inclusion of Islamabad in the GSP Plus scheme to be implemented by the European Union, Mr Khan said the ministry of commerce has initiated efforts in early 2004 for securing continued duty free access for the country’s exports to the EU.

The minister said that President Musharraf has also raised this issue recently in his meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who appreciated Pakistan’s position and assured the President of his country’s support for continuation of the GSP benefits. He said the President had also taken up the issue with EU heads of states particularly Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Jacques Chirac. On a question about the impact of the post-quota regime, he said the country is ready to face the challenge and would increase its exports in the textile sector. -Staff Report