United States of America (USA) on Tuesday rejected Pakistan’s foremost demand of preferential treatment to its textile products in the US market, saying that Islamabad has to rely on the existing General System of Preference (GSP), well informed sources told Business Recorder.
This clear message was conveyed by the visiting top aide of US President on trade, ie, Michael Froman at a meeting with the Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan held in the Commerce Ministry’s committee room.
Commerce Minister asked the visiting USTR to revise travel advisory, ensure preferential access to its textile market and ease visa regime for exporters of IT related services to further strengthen trade ties between the two countries.
The US delegation is led by Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative (USTR) at the meeting, and includes Ambassador David Hale, Matthew Vogel, Deputy USTR Michael Delaney, AUSTR, Zeba Reyazuddin, Director South & Central Asia, USTR among others.
The Pakistani delegation included Secretary Commerce Azmat Ranjha, Secretary Board of Investment (BoI) Azhar Ali Chaudhary, Additional Secretary Commerce Asad Hayauddin and Trade Minister at Washington DC Ali Tahir.
According to sources, initially US had invited the Commerce Minister to visit Washington and attend TIFA meeting.
However, Commerce Minister made it clear that only if the US was ready to give serious access to Pakistani textiles would he be ready to visit otherwise USTR should visit Pakistan.
Pakistani textiles, the country’s main export item, is not part of the USA’s GSP facility which is a major disadvantage and account for our textile exports being diverting to the EU market due to zero duty.
Presently, Pakistan’s major textile products are not covered under the GSP facility with only five per cent Pakistan exports covered under the GSP.
“Though textiles constitute the largest exports to the US market yet not being part of GSP facility, it is very difficult for Pakistan to compete with our competitors,” the sources added.
Speaking during the inaugural session, Minister for Commerce said that there are several reasons for which Pakistan deserves a preferential access to the US textile market.
“Several international institutions have substantiated Pakistan’s stable economy, while the security situation has also greatly improved and Pakistan is now a lot safer today than it was a few years ago. US travel advisories have become a major non tariff barrier to trade,” the Minister said.
According to sources, Commerce Minister argued that Pakistan’s IT sector was unable to get any major contract of large US corporations because of training related visa issues faced by the employees.
“This situation has deprived Pakistani companies of due opportunities,” the sources quoted the Minister as saying.
USTR directed the ambassador to look into the issuance of H-1, B visa to Pakistani IT workers. Ambassador Michael Froman maintained that TIFA serves as a premier forum for advancing trade investment relationship between the two countries.
The current economic relationship with Pakistan is just a fraction of what it could be and with TIFA we can seek that potential, he said He further stated that under the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, important structural reforms have been undertaken in Pakistan.
These reforms include economic and energy reforms that have resulted in enhancing overall economic growth and lowering inflation and which provides a conducive environment for further strengthening of trade ties between two countries, the ambassador said.
According to a press release, during the meeting, the two sides discussed ways and means to improve access of Pakistani exports to the United States, including those of textiles, agricultural items, enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Pakistan, establishing dispute resolution mechanisms, opening up of defence procurement in Afghanistan to Pakistani companies, holding the next business opportunities conference in Pakistan and other trade related matters.
Later on, experts of both sides held discussions on different agenda items at a local hotel. -Business Recorder