LAHORE (September 25 2009): Pakistan textile sector is eyeing hopefully towards the outcome of present visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to the US, as there are strong chances that the US government would take concrete measures on the market access to Pakistan. It may be noted that the President Asif Ali Zardari, besides calling upon the US to fast-track the reimbursement of the outstanding $1.6 billion Coalition Support Fund and the early realisation of the Tokyo pledges, has urged for substantial market access.
He has emphasised the passage of the Biden-Lugar Bill and the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) Bill during his meeting with the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, to expedite the country's development programme and rebuild its infrastructure.
The Presidential spokesman said that the president had also impressed upon the US envoy that there is need to channel the assistance through existing institutions and budgetary mechanism, which would strengthen their capacity and help avoid overlapping. He said that Zardari had said Pakistan needed increased access to the US markets and called upon Washington to create a special category for conflict-affected countries under its generalised system of preference-plus programme.
It may be noted that the President has also welcomed the establishment of an energy task force and also expressed the hope that significant progress would occur in the wake of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Islamabad next month. The two leaders also discussed the forthcoming Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting.
The president presented a case for expediting the delivery of counter-insurgency equipment, saying this was vital to challenge extremism. It may be noted that the first-ever-five-year textile policy has also emphasised heavily on the market access to achieve the target of $25 billion by 2015. There is a general impression that the bill relating to the ROZs would get through the US Senate sooner than later. However, the US government has been delaying the passage of the bill.
It may be noted that former Chairman of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) had mentioned in one meeting that former US envoy to Pakistan said that the ROZs could only be set up once the total destruction of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) takes place.
Delay in the setting up of ROZs has perturbed the textile industry at large and many textile millers are booking heavy losses amid a dismal hope that the government would be able to pursue the US administration on the idea. It may further be noted that the textile sector has passed through critical situation because of the sudden rise in the banks' mark up rates and unprecedented load shedding in the country.
Talking to the Business Recorder, many textile millers, though in a dismal tone, expressed the hope that President Asif Ali Zardari would utilise all his diplomatic abilities to put the house in order so far as bilateral trade relations are concerned.
Source: Business Recorder