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US unwilling on increased market access for textiles

Daily Times, Pakistan, Sunday, April 16, 2006

US unwilling on increased market access for textiles

By Sajid Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: The United States is reluctant to give increased market access for textile to Pakistan and has conveyed that any new trading arrangement that could be finalized between the two countries would be minus textile, a senior official told the Daily Times on Saturday.

Pakistan wants to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the USA and is of the opinion that market access for Pakistani products in the US market is vital, as it would alleviate poverty, which is the root cause of extremism, the official added.

Assistant United States Trade Representative (AUSTR) Douglas Alan Hartwick, who called on the commerce minister on Thursday, discussed trade relations between the United States and Pakistan. Issues concerning Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) and Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) were discussed at length at the meeting.

The AUSTR has conveyed that a Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and the US is sensitive in nature that could be negotiated and finalized at the highest level. However, the AUSTR has said that both countries could enter into a possible trading arrangement minus textiles, the official added.

Pakistan is seeking from the US increased market access in textiles of around $2 billion per year. Pakistani authorities are of the view that $1 billion increase in market access in textile to Pakistan in the US market would generate employment opportunities for around 200,000 workers in Pakistan. If Pakistan is allowed $2 billion increased market access in textiles, 400,000 new jobs opportunities would be available in the country. This measure would enable the country to reduce the level of poverty and unemployment, the official said.

Both the countries, however, agreed that BIT would be concluded as early as possible. Pakistani authorities urged the AUSTR to convene the TIFA council meeting as soon as possible with highest-level participation from the US to boost trade relations between the two countries. The last TIFA meeting was held in September 2004 in Washington DC. It is now Islamabad’s turn to hold the meeting. It was agreed that holding the meeting as soon as possible, given the long lapse of time since the last meeting, was in mutual interest of both the countries.

It was also agreed that BIT must be concluded as early as possible. Both the sides were sanguine about the early signing of the treaty, which would lead to FTA between the two countries.

Both the sides discussed ROZs — an initiative announced by the US president during his recent visit to Pakistan. Under this arrangement, goods manufactured in ROZs will enter the US duty free when they meet agreed rules of origin requirement. The Pakistan side stressed the need to expedite finalization of the modalities for ROZs.

Pakistan’s trade with the USA has progressed over the last few years. Pakistan’s exports to the USA increased by 13.2% in the year 2005 compared with 2004. In our major export sectors of textiles and apparels, exports grew by 14%. In the current year, exports from Pakistan have shown promise as seen by the statistics available so far for January 2006. Pakistan’s export of textiles and apparels has increased by 46% in January 2006 compared with January 2005.

 source: Daily Times