Daily Jang, 8 November 2005
US senators recommend FTA with Pakistan
By Sajid Aziz
KARACHI: The US senators and lobbyists have strongly recommended the signing of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan to rebuild its impaired economy.
According to the reports reaching here from Virginia, a close aide of President Bush and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie said in a fund-raising dinner, which was hosted by some noted US Pakistanis for the help of earthquake affectees.
The fundraising dinner was held at the residence of a noted Pakistani American Riffat Mehmood on Saturday evening, which was attended among others by Ambassador Jehangir Keramat; Chairman, Senate, Mohammadmian Soomro; Ed Gillespie, former Ambassador to Pakistan, Nancy Powell; former Assistant Secretary of State, Karl Inderfurth, etc.
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee who is considered very close to President Bush said he believed the FTA would help "the revival of the Pakistani economy badly affected by the earthquake."
The Pakistan’s Ambassador, Jahangir Karamat highly appreciated the recommendation by saying that this would be a major help.
"It will go a long way in rebuilding our economy," Karamat hoped.
However, Pakistan has been trying for the last three years to conclude a free trade agreement with the US but has been unable to do so.
A free trade deal between US and Pakistan would allow unimpeded exchange and flow of goods and services between the two trading partners regardless of their national borders. Afghanistan could also be included in it, says one analyst.
It can also ensure preferential access to the US market for Pakistani goods as well as Afghan goods through Pakistan borders. But Pakistan will stand to gain the most on overall basis.
"A trade relationship is very important," said Gillespie. "By allowing more Pakistani goods and services to reach the US market, we can help Pakistan overcome the long-term effects of the earthquake."
Senate Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro also welcomed the suggestion.
Meanwhile, the US web magazine "DesPardes" reported that some $500,000 have been raised at a fundraising dinner for rebuilding of Bagh School for girls, in Azad Kashmir. Bagh school collapsed in the October 8, devastating earthquake in Northern Pakistan killing over 300 girls and 35 teachers. Bagh is one of the hardest-hit areas in the earthquake zone.
A large number of noted American, and Pakistani-American businessmen, CEOs, legislators, IMF and WB officials, academicians, officials, and present and former diplomats also attended the show.
Speaking on the occasion, Susan Allen said, "Events like this will ensure long-term engagement of the international community with the relief, rehabilitation and reconstructions works."
Allen, who is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week with a congressional delegation, has been actively involved in raising funds and other assistance for the survivors. "What happened in Pakistan is very sad and we are going to stay engaged," she said.
The highlight of the fundraising dinner was a mini discussion whether the US should conclude a FTA with Pakistan to help overcome the negative effects of the October 8, earthquake that killed about 80,000 people and displaced millions.
Commenting on the recommendations of signing FTA Pakistan by US legislators, influential and the lobbyists, the stakeholders in Pakistan have urged the Pakistan government to speed up its campaign for signing a FTA with US because it is the high time for trade negotiations.
"The Ministry of Commerce should now prepare comprehensive proposals with the consultations of stakeholders for the FTA or duty-free access of Pak exports into US market and initiate talks with the US authorities," said former chairman, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Rashid Soorty.