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September 12, 2006

Pakistan denied due trade benefits for post-9/11 role

 
September 12, 2006

KARACHI: The incident of 9/11, which triggered the metamorphosis of global politics and economics, forced many Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan, to change policies in order to survive in a changed world.

Ironically, despite all its efforts in war against terrorism, Pakistan could not maintain its good image in the eyes of western world, particularly in USA. Moreover, Pakistan’s status of being a frontline state in US-led war against terror did not help the country in acquiring reciprocal economic assistance and trade facilitations.

Delays in the issuance of visa, hurdles in marketing of goods and services, complications in security, customs, shipping and cargo processes are some of the major grievances that Pakistani businesses have been suffering since 9/11 incident.

Many exporters reported they had lost deals with importers of western countries, which assumed that Pakistani products were suspicious, making market access difficult in these countries.

On the contrary, the business community of the country had been hopeful that as frontline state in the war against terrorism, the US and its allies would offer a trade corridor to Pakistan to enhance its exports.

President Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed said that post 9/11 policies were not fruitful for the country in terms of trade benefits.

“We (Pakistan) were not given the status of free market and quota free access in the developed countries similar to that granted to Jordan, which we were expecting as a key ally of USA in war against terrorism,” he said.

“Pakistan was anticipating strong economic ties with USA by signing Business and Investment Treaty (BIT) but due to lack of confidence and negotiation on the business laws and procedures, it has not materialised so far.”

FPCCI chief told The News that the mega industrial projects of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) could not

be constructed at the Pak-Afghan border owing to lack of peace in the region and other notable apprehensions between two states.

“Pakistani private sector can not get the needed economic benefits from USA.” He pointed out that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has increased up to $3.57 billion at the back of privatisation of national assets during the past four years.

“Foreign exchange remittance surged to four billion dollars per annum as the foreign capital is being transacted legally through banks,” he mentioned. Chaudhry Saeed pointed out that in absence of viable and sustainable business activities the local investors started investment in the capital market and real estate leading to speculation in these sectors. Speculation in turn leads to vicious boom-bust cycles, which greatly affects the socio-economic plight of common citizen.

President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Mian Shafqat Ali was of the view that the country was not provided special trade packages and other concessions that it deserved for its post 9/11 role.

“USA did not do lavished aid on Pakistan as it should have given to the country instead it withdrew its one billion dollar loan for Pakistan and has given free trade market access only to the earth quake affected areas,” he pointed out.

Bilal Mulla Central Chairman of Pakistan Readymade Garment Manufacturer and Exporter Association (PREGMEA) said the value added export of the country declined sharply during this year instead of surging owing to the tarnished country image of Pakistan. “Our exports have increased in previous years but if we glance at our trade deficit then we find our country at ground level,” he said.