Pak wants free trade with US, China, Latin states: Humayun

Pak wants free trade with US, China, Latin states: Humayun

ISLAMABAD, December 10 (Online): Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan has said Pakistan wanted free trade with the United States, China and Latin states and would soon sign accords with them in this regard.

The minister, who accompanied President Gen Pervez Musharraf on his recent six-nation tour, told a press conference here on Thursday that Latin America had the potential to become centre of international economic and commercial activities and was fast moving in this direction.

He said Pakistan wanted to promote its economic and trade ties with the Latin states, adding Brazil and Argentina had agreed to hold negotiations with Pakistan for free trade.

He said during the President Musharraf’s visit to Mexico, the two countries decided to set up a joint commission to enhance bilateral trade and investment, and would sign a free trade agreement soon.

He said Pakistan was likely to start discussion with European Union members and the United States on free trade soon and this would boost country’s exports significantly.

He said Commerce Secretary Tasneem Noorani was presently in Europe to explore commercial talks with European officials, adding he would also go to Europe in an attempt to reduce tariffs on Pakistani goods.

He said lobbying was under way in 25 European countries to find new markets for Pakistani goods.

He said Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would visit China in mid December and the number of items included in preferential trade agreement Pakistan had with China, would be increased.

He said China would reduce duties on Pakistani goods.

The minister said the two countries had constituted joint groups to study free trade agreement options between China and Pakistan.

He said the World Trade Organization (WTO) regime would bring an end to quota system but, "we want to fully benefit from the quota available to us by that time".

He said some Pakistani textile exporters especially those from home furnishing and garment sector were facing problems in accessing US markets due to imminent quota elimination.

He said the government was facilitating exporters who had confirmed contracts so as to avoid any loss to them.

In this regard, he said, an air cargo service would be started from January 1 to January 20 and this would cost 500 million rupees.

He said the quota elimination would yield positive impact on various sectors but domestic garment industry would be affected.

The minister said country’s exports would be over 13.7 billion dollars during the current fiscal year and in the coming years, it would jump to 20 billion dollars, with a better access of Pakistani products to the European countries.

He said a special cabinet committee had been set up to look into the expulsion of two lakh illegal Pakistani immigrants from Europe.

He said during his meeting with Indian counterpart, the two sides agreed to form study groups for promoting bilateral trade but there was presently a ban on importing diesel from India.

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