US withdraws ROZs offer
Posted on 6 months ago
Three more, added later, were Mallagari in the settled region and Yaka and Shakas in FATA. It is. The US has, however, proposed an incentive package for the establishment of a working group on trade and investment matters of bilateral interest for which the United States Trade Representative in South Asia will prepare a set of proposals for grant of enhanced trade market access to Pakistan. The idea of setting up ROZs in terrorist-infested KP and FATA was circulated to boost economic opportunities in under-developed regions to bring young people of the area in the economic mainstream. It was projected to deal with the issue of militancy in the area by providing employment opportunities to poor people of the area. The US authorities at that time announced that ROZs will compensate for the losses suffered by the people in bordering areas of FATA due to war on terror.
But now a debate has been unleashed in the United States that ROZs were not carrying the desired potential because self reliance, primarily associated with countries\' economic growth and not from pure dependence on foreign aid that can only provide temporary help from imminent economic collapse. This debate also encompasses a multi-faceted risk factor in establishing ROZs which, it said, has to be considered as part of a holistic development strategy considering its impact on neighboring communities. In this backdrop the creating of ROZs in areas without basic drinking water, health care and high incidence of militant violence ignores basic needs of survival and safety before economics. The debate also focused on the risk that ROZs do not actually make people resilient to radicalization; they rather provide economic base for the militancy. The stated goal of ROZs, to provide gainful employment means, could provide alternatives to militancy. ROZs present an opportunity to change of hearts and minds of people. However, social mindset change is not an automatically driven by economic self-interest. Another risk in ROZs is that it will transfer wealth to rich industrialists and have only marginal impact on welfare of the tribal areas working class.
Why were these fears not expressed when the US was frantically pursuing the ROZs proposal. But when a debate was in progress, Washington started discriminating Pakistan\'s trading community against Indian, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan community for which the import duty was lowered to zero, five and 1o per cent, respectively, with free market access, an opportunity denied the Pakistanis.
If the United States has now offered Pakistan with an enhanced trade access to its market, the earlier discriminatory decision betrays Washington\'s sincerity and exposes its actual designs. In the meantime, Pakistan trade with the United States has also seen a decline and this owes largely to its trade policy in South Asia. Textiles, a major area of Pakistani exports, has come down from around $1.6 billion in 2005-06 to $1.3 billion in six years because of various challenges to trade, particularly high customs duty of more than 10 per cent on Pakistani textiles in the US. The whole episode points to the only conclusion that trusting Americans in any area of economic cooperation, and to the larger canvass of socio-political life, will merely be cheating the people of Pakistan. The country has no dearth of market around the globe and must now think in terms of enhancing trade within the region and also seek access to fast emerging eastern market that will not play trickery with Islamabad in any area of life. The government is obliged to find new destinations in the larger national interest.
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