- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Pakistan seeks deal

Pakistan’s commerce minister said yesterday that he is pressing the United States for duty-free market access for Pakistani textiles and reminding the Bush administration that his country is a key ally in South Asia.

Humayun Akhtar Khan told reporters of his fears that Pakistan could lose business in the United States to other nations that have free-trade agreements with Washington.

“We do think some kind of tariff incentives should be given to Pakistan to offer us a level playing field to compete. U.S. trade policy unintentionally should not put an ally like Pakistan at a disadvantage,” he said.

The United States rewarded Pakistan with a $143 million trade package for its support in the war against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and its ally, terror network al Qaeda. That quota deal ends in 2005.

Mr. Khan said he has asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick for more concessions because Pakistani companies have not benefited from the quota deal.

“The net benefit that package gave us was something close to actually $20 million,” he said. “If the United States wants to give us $143 million worth of market access, then it should be $143 million. It should be something that works.”

On Sunday, Mr. Khan met members of the Pakistani-American community and discussed economic reforms introduced by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who is due to visit Washington later this month.

Mr. Khan said Pakistan is developing a free-market economy, with incentives for foreign investors and protection for private enterprise. He also said Pakistan has $10 billion in exports, a record for the country.

Pakistani Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi hosted a business lunch for the minister on Saturday. Mr. Khan has also met with representatives of the Middle East Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the United States Institute of Peace.

Mr. Khan also discussed textile issues with Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade.

Death of a diplomat

Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh is mourning the loss of his political minister, who died during the weekend after a long battle with cancer.

Francis Vaz, 51, was “one of the finest officers I have ever worked with,” Mr. Mansingh said in a statement.

“His extraordinary intellect, clarity of thought and work ethic were unmatched. He never allowed his illness to compromise his contribution and service to his country,” the ambassador added.

“Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Francis, especially during his battle over the last three years, have witnessed his exceptional courage, dignity and complete dedication to his work. His unfailingly positive outlook and his remarkable will power remain inspirational to all of us.”

Mr. Vaz, who was cremated yesterday, had joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1976 and served in Brazil, France, Pakistan and Turkey. He also had served as joint secretary in the Foreign Ministry, directing the Africa bureau and the Consular, Passport and Visa Division.

Total withdrawal

With U.S. troops poised to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, the Cato Institute asks, “Why stop there?”

The Washington-based libertarian think tank is calling for the withdrawal of all American soldiers in the Persian Gulf region.

“The forward-deployed presence of U.S. troops in the Gulf region has placed an enormous strain on the all-volunteer force and has become a lightning rod used by extremist groups as justification for acts of violence,” says Christopher Prebel, Cato’s director of foreign policy studies.

Mr. Prebel, in a new Cato study, notes that the RAND Corp. estimates the cost of keeping U.S. troops in the region at $60 billion a year.

“Ending the permanent deployment of American military personnel to the Persian Gulf would go a long way toward reducing the operational tempo for our forces, which were stretched to the breaking point even before the latest action against Iraq,” he says.

The study, “After Victory: Toward a New Military Posture in the Persian Gulf,” is posted on Cato’s Web site (www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-477es.html).

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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