Pakistan’s business community holds high hopes from PM’s US visit

In this October 23, 2018 file photo, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrives to attend the opening ceremony of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2019

Pakistan’s business community holds high hopes from PM’s US visit

  • Eyes Preferential Trade Agreement with the US
  • Wants inclusion of textile goods in the United States’ GSP program

KARACHI: Pakistan’s business community wants the government to negotiate a Preferential Trade Agreement with the United States during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Washington next week where he is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump on July 22.
The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues, including counterterrorism, defense, energy and trade, “with the goal of creating conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between the two countries,” confirmed the White House ahead of the summit level meeting.
Founding chairman of the Pak-US Business Council, Iftikhar Ali Malik, said that “Pakistan has rendered huge sacrifices in the war on terror and its economy is suffering from the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“Pakistan deserves preferential business treatment without tariff and non-tariff barriers and free flow of bilateral trade, said Malik. “The US must help Pakistan build its industrial institutions, undertake joint ventures and increase investment in Pakistan.”
Pakistan is the 56th largest goods trading partner of the US, and the two countries had $6.6 billion of bilateral trade during 2018 where Pakistan’s imports totaled $2.9 billion and its exports with the US stood at $3.7 billion. The overall trade volume was in favor of Pakistan with surplus trade last year.
“The US goods trade deficit with Pakistan was $783 million in 2018, a 2.2% increase over 2017,” noted the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in one of its reports.
Pakistan’s major exports comprise of textile goods which stand at about 3 percent to US textile imports, while the country’s regional competitors, China, Bangladesh and India, have much higher contributions.
Members of the local business community say they want PM Khan to take up the issue of including his country, especially its textile products, in the US trade preference programs, such as the Generalized System of Preference (GSP). The program provides opportunities for many of the world’s least developed countries to use trade for their economic growth.
“We are not included in the GSP program of the United States and we want to avail this facility to increase the range of our textile products in US markets,” Junaind Makda, president of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Arab News.
“If the US is persuaded to include Pakistan’s textile products in GSP, it will increase Pakistan’s exports up to $500 million because textiles contribute 90 percent to USA market from Pakistan,” Dr. Mirza Ifkhtiar Baig, senior vice president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the apex body of businessmen and traders, said.
Many Pakistanis believe that the US government can rescue their country from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and help soften the condition of the International Monetary Fund’s bailout package.
“The prime minister can take up the issue of FATF that has grey-listed Pakistan, as fears of further downgrading is hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles. Pakistan can also seek US help to ease the harsh conditions attached to the IMF bailout program,” Dr. Baig suggested.
Pakistani business community also seeks US help with urban forestry since “they have very good expertise related to environmental issues,” Makda said.
Pakistani businessmen, who are fed up with the constant inflow of smuggled goods, mainly from Afghanistan, also want the prime minister to raise this issue with the US authorities. “We need their help to stop smuggling from Afghanistan,” the KCCI president stressed.

Pakistan to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

Updated 13 min 4 sec ago

Pakistan to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

  • Pakistan summons French envoy “to lodge strong protest against recent Islamophobic diatribe,” foreign office says
  • Condemns in "strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)”

ISLAMABAD: On the instructions of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday a resolution would be presented at the next meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, proposing to observe 15th March as an international day against Islamophobia.

Qureshi’s remarks came as Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Monday summoned French ambassador Marc Baréty as anger spread in the South Asian nation over President Emmanuel Macron’s reaction to the murder last week of a French teacher by a Muslim who wanted to avenge the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a class on freedom of expression.

On Sunday, in an open letter on Twitter, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Facebook to ban “Islamophobic content” on its platform, hours after he accused the French president of “attacking Islam”.

On Monday, FM Qureshi urged the United Nations to take notice and act against the campaign against Islam, saying there was resentment world over due to the resurgence of the blasphemous caricatures.

“Nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims under the garb of freedom of expression. Irresponsible statement of the French President has added fuel to the fire,” Qureshi said. “Hate speech is on the rise. The Prime Minister raised his voice against hate speech and Islamophobia at the UN General Assembly this year.”

Foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Arab News the french ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge "strong protest against the recent Islamophobic diatribe,” saying Baréty was handed over a ‘dossier’ by the special secretary for Europe on Monday.

On Wednesday, Macron had vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), saying that Samuel Paty, the teacher who was beheaded for showing the blasphemous sketches, was “killed beca­use Islamists want our future”.

“Pakistan condemns in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries,” foreign office said in a statement.