US considering Pakistan’s proposals to end terrorism and poverty: Noorani
* Commerce secretary says Pakistan and India will hold dialogue in August
* Pakistan and Malaysia to sign early harvest agreement in two months
* Trade with Iran under PTA subject to approval by Iranian parliament
By Khalid Mustafa
ISLAMABAD: The United States has started considering Pakistan’s proposals to alleviate poverty and curb terrorism from the country in general and from tribal and border areas (between Pakistan and Afghanistan) in particular, Federal Commerce Secretary Tasneem Noorani told Daily Times in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Tasneem had returned from the US where he held negotiations with senior officials on Pakistan’s proposals to eliminate activities pertaining to terrorism, which springs from poverty.
“Pakistan proposed two ideas to eliminate activities pertaining to terrorism, which springs from poverty,” Tasneem said, adding that Pakistan proposed that if industrial zones were established in various locations in the four federating units poverty would reduce there and ultimately reduce the trend of subversive activities across the country. He said Pakistan was seeking the special duty free access in the US market for the products to be manufactured in the industrial zones. “If the US extends the trade relief, Pakistan will easily be able to reduce the terrorist activities in the country,” he added.
About the second idea of initiating the Afghanistan-Pakistan Quality Industrial Zones (APQIZs) on the pattern of Israel-Jordan Quality Industrial Zones, Tasneem said the idea would help alleviate poverty in Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal and border areas.
He said under the Israel-Jordan Quality Industrial Zones, Jordan’s export to the US in 2000 was $30 million which had reached to $900 million. He said in case of the APQIZ, under the rules of origin the product would belong to Afghanistan 15 percent while 85 percent to Pakistan’s origin. Pakistan also wanted the zero duty and market access in the US market on the products to be manufactured in its proposed APQIZs, he said.
Talking about any breakthrough in the trade relief by the US during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Tasneem said that it was premature to discuss anything about this. “We have put our suggestions into the US process and the authorities after taking positive decision will have to get them approved through legislation,” he added.
About the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, he said the United States Trade Representative (USTR) would involve itself on the FTA talks, but with no commitments.
He said these days the US was echoed with the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CATFA) and the Congress decision was due before July 4.
CAFTA was a free trade agreement that includes the US, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, he said, adding that negotiations for CAFTA were completed in December and January. He said in the US, the lobbies pertaining to textile and agriculture were very strong and they did not want the US government to extend to any country the zero duty concession on products.
He said Pakistan and India would hold dialogue in New Delhi in August at the level by Joint Study Group and Pakistan would seek maximum incentives for local businessmen and also seek the level playing field for the country’s exports to India, he added. He said Indian tariff regime was very restrictive not liberalised as Pakistan’s tariff regime.
About technical talks with Malaysia on FTA, Tasneem said both countries would sign Early Harvest and under the agreement, both countries would immediately give zero duty on certain items to each other which would ultimately lead to FTA.
About South Asia Free Trade Agreement, he said there were some issues, which were needed to be resolved among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries that include no-concession list and rules of origin. In the next committee meeting, SAARC countries would take up the said issues, he added.
About the initiation of trade under the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Iran, he said Pakistan was waiting for the approval by Iranian parliament in this regard as Pakistan cabinet had already accorded approval to initiate the trade under PTA. He said as soon as the Iranian parliament would approve the PTA draft and it would be notified the trade would begin.
Tasneem said the decision of the European Commission’s investigating team on 13.1 percent anti-dumping duty imposed on Pakistan was expected by the end of August. He said the European Union investigation team completed investigation against Pakistan’s eight companies on June 10 at Dubai.