GSP for Pakistan: US Congress decision awaited
United States embassy in Islamabad said it is unaware of an extension of General System of Preferences (GSP) for Pakistan after it lapsed on July 31, 2013. In a written reply, a spokesperson for the US embassy said that Pakistan normally enjoys substantial duty free access to the US market through the GSP program. Congressional authorisation of the program expired on July 31, 2013. During the lapse period, otherwise-eligible GSP imports from Pakistan and other GSP beneficiary countries are subject to normal trade relations (most-favoured-nation) duties.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2014
"We have no information at this time regarding whether or when Congress will act to extend GSP. If Congress extends the program retroactively, as it has done on several occasions in the past, importers will be able to seek refunds of duties paid during the lapse period," the spokesman added.
According to the spokesman, the US is focused on initiatives that can make a difference in bilateral trade and investment relationship. Pakistan has a trade surplus with the United States. Pakistan exports to the United States are higher than imports from the US. "Two-way trade is already $5 billion a year, and the US is the largest single export market for Pakistan. We are working to expand our trade relationship even further," the spokesman maintained.
Recently, Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reaffirmed their commitment to expanding bilateral trade and business links and welcomed the upcoming United States-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting in March 2014 in Washington, D.C. The Secretary underscored US commitment to supporting private sector-led growth in Pakistan and welcomed the proposal by Advisor Aziz to regularly convene a Joint Business and Investment Forum, involving the private sector.
Both sides also look forward to convening a follow-on conference to the successful US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conferences held in Dubai in June 2013, and to a US-convened conference in April 2014 in Islamabad that will link Pakistani and Central Asian businesses to encourage increased regional trade. They also look forward to the forthcoming announcement of a third fund of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII) to leverage private equity for small and medium enterprises. Additionally, the two countries reaffirmed the agenda for the upcoming Economics and Finance Working Group, to be held in April 2014 in Washington, D.C., where the United States and Pakistan will discuss trade and investment promotion, economic assistance, and regional economic integration. They further proposed that the working groups would continue to refine the benchmarks used to realise these goals.
Commenting on alleviation of energy crisis in Pakistan, the spokesman stated that strategic dialogue participants, including Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif, reviewed next concrete steps from the Energy Working Group (EWG), which was held in Washington in November 2013, as well as a subsequent trade delegation to Houston, Texas. The two sides expressed satisfaction with discussions held in November 2013 on a range of options to enable Pakistan to overcome its energy deficiencies. The two sides noted progress in developing a US technical assistance program to support the development of Pakistan's domestic natural gas reserves.