KARACHI: US Consul General in Karachi Michael J Dodman has said the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme has been put on hold for the time being because of the federal government shutdown in Washington but it will be restored soon and Pakistan is most likely to benefit from the facility.
Speaking to businessmen at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday, Dodman said his government was working on various issues pointed out by trade associations and these needed to be addressed with a view to making Pakistan, particularly the city of Karachi, an attractive place for foreign investors.
“We are working closely with various trade associations and institutions including the KCCI, Sindh Board of Investment and Trade Development Authority to explore ways and means for attracting more investment in Pakistan,” he said.
According to the diplomat, the US strongly believes that the future of Pakistan is directly linked with its economy that is why Washington has been promoting trade and investment. He vowed that his government would continue to run US-funded economic programmes and build the capacity of enterprises in Pakistan.
Commenting on the visa policy, Dodman said the US was running a visa office in Karachi where business visas were being issued at a proper time.
Responding to complaints of delay in visa processing, he stressed that the Karachi office followed proper US laws because of which visas were sometimes delayed. However, the situation is improving fast and it is much better now.
Businessmen Group Chairman and former KCCI president Siraj Kassam Teli underscored the need for enhancing trade between the two countries.
He said bilateral ties had faced many challenges since 9/11 and the pace of growth had been too slow and things were not moving the way they should. Pakistan’s annual exports worth around $3.5 billion did not reflect the potential and relations between the two sides, which he said must be enhanced to at least $9 billion.
BMG Vice Chairman Zubair Motiwala, while praising the US move to undertake development projects, suggested that Washington must also initiate programmes focusing on job creation as unemployment remained a major challenge for the country.
“It must be realised that terrorism stems from a empty stomach. In order to create more job opportunities, the US must press on with the free trade agreement or preferential trade agreement,” he said.
KCCI President Abdullah Zaki called for minimising trade barriers between the two countries. “Pakistan’s vital role in combating terrorism has proved that it is a time-tested and true ally. It is unfortunate that this contribution has not been well recognised in terms of increased economic cooperation,” he said.
He expected the US to help address economic challenges and energy crisis, enhance investment, transfer technology, provide education and training, conduct scientific research and develop infrastructure.
Commenting on the Bilateral Investment Treaty, Zaki was of the view that the treaty would enable both sides to negotiate the FTA which would bring trade and industry of the two countries closer.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2013.
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