ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States of America (USA) are holding Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council meeting from March 11-13 in Washington DC to resolve bilateral trade and investment issues. Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir will represent Pakistan in the meetings.
Pakistan maintains that the US should compensate it in lieu of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) which were shelved. However, the response of the US administration is not encouraging. With regard to General System of Preferences (GSP) to Pakistan, US has not so far given any positive signal.
According to sources, the US administration is pressing Pakistan to sign its proposed draft of Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) which is not acceptable to Islamabad. United States embassy in Islamabad stated that it is unaware of an extension of General System of Preferences (GSP) for Pakistan after it lapsed on July 31, 2013. Pakistan enjoyed a substantial duty free access to the US market through the GSP programme.
The Congressional authorisation of the programme expired on July 31, 2013 and during the lapsed period otherwise-eligible GSP imports from Pakistan and other GSP beneficiary countries are subject to normal trade relations (MFN) duties. The US embassy claims it has no information at this time regarding whether or when the Congress will act to extend the GSP status to Pakistan. If the Congress extends the programme retroactively, as it has done on several occasions in the past, importers will be able to seek refunds of duties paid during the lapsed period, the spokesman added.
Pakistan has a trade surplus with the United States. Pakistan’s exports to the United States are higher than imports from the US. “Two-way trade is already $ 5 billion a year, and the US is the largest single export market for Pakistan,” sources said. Sources in the Ministry of Commerce told this scribe that the Commerce Minister would emphasise further enhancement of trade relations between the two countries. The US administration would also be requested to facilitate the export of Pakistani products to American market.
The Commerce Minister will also apprise the US administration about the steps taken to normalise trade relations with India, which, according to insiders, is also pressurising Islamabad through diplomatic channels to get Non Discriminatory Market Access or Most Favoured Nation status. It is unclear if the Federal Cabinet will approve trade normalisation proposal prior to Commerce Minister’s departure for the US or during his presence in Washington DC.