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June 21, 2006

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EU seeks opening of more areas in services sector

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) has asked Pakistan to give commitments for opening of more areas in services sector by July 31.

In a letter received by Foreign Office, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has stressed Pakistani authorities to give more commitments on the remaining 64 areas in services sector, the sources in Foreign Office told The News.

The FO sources said that EU trade commissioner sent the letter to this effect to Commerce Ministry through foreign office and now the ball is in the court of the Commerce Ministry to decide about the submission of more commitment in service sector by July 1, 2006, as sought by EU.

The sources said that Pakistan has already given commitments for 40 areas in services sector under (General Agreement on Trade in Service) GATS. The official said that Pakistan would open up 60 more areas in services sector from January 1, 2007 that mainly include maritime, mass transit and water supplies to foreigners to come and play their role.

Although the maritime sector is open and foreign companies are playing their due role in shipping and other services in this sector, but Pakistan was earlier hesitant to give commitment for opening this sector for foreign countries as giving the commitment means the authorities will not be able to stop even Indians in shipping in Pakistan's waters which may prove dangerous in defence point of view in the wake the strategic interest in country's water.

But this time Pakistani authorities have succumbed to pressure and agreed to give commitment for formally opening maritime sector for all foreign services provider even from India under the commitment requited under GATS.

To a question the official said that restriction on acquisition of real estate by non-Pakistani entities has been removed. Similarly, the Foreign Service providers will be able to provide services in water supplies system in Pakistan. The official apprehend with the advent of the

Foreign Service providers in the water supplies, the water charges will surge at the maximum, which Pakistanis cannot afford.

The World Bank has also been demanding the privatisation of whole irrigational and drinking water supplies system. Under this system in drinking water supplies sector the meters will be installed out side the houses for water billing as have been installed and working for billing the gas and electricity charges.

The Foreign Service providers will also be able to take part in Pakistan's mass transit system. The official said that in financial and telecom sector the Foreign Service providers are working very well.

Health sector is already open to Foreign Service providers and now the government is also to open the environment sector for the foreigners. To a question the official said that sanitation has also been opened.

This is pertinent to mention that the developed countries are not generous to open all areas in services sector, but they are exerting pressure on developing countries to give commitments for opening all areas in services sector.

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