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US Administration, Congressmen express support for ROZs initiative

Associated press of Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (APP): The US administration and a number of congressmen have expressed support for early launch of (Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) initiative as a way to bring employment to people in economically depressed areas, a group of Pakistani business leaders, who met with the American officials and lawmakers, said.

The US Congress is expected to take up shortly a piece of legislation, necessary to commence the program, under which products from designated zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan would be exported duty-free to the United States to spur economic growth and realize economic opportunities for the local people. The program was envisioned during a meeting between President Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush in Islamabad last year.

“We had some very good meetings with members of US Congress as we discussed various aspects of the ROZs initiative and we feel encouraged by US officils’ expression of support for providing economic opportunity to people,” Naved Arif, Secretary, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, head of the visiting delegation told APP.

The delegates met Tuesday with Congressman Adam Smith, Congresswoman and co-chair of Pakistan Caucus on the Hill, Sheila Jackson Lee, staff of a House sub-committee on trade, officials at the Department of State and Department of Commerce, and were scheduled to interact with some other lawmakers and members of US-Pakistan Business Council on Wednesday.

Under the initiative, reconstruction opportunity zones will be set up in the federally administered tribal areas, NWFP, border areas of Balochistan and parts of earthquake-hit areas of Azad Kahmir.

Speaking at an Iftar reception hosted by Dr Maqsood Chaudhry, a member on the board of directors of Pakistani American Leadership Center, Arif sounded confident that Pakistani and American investors would come forward with investment as most of the areas already have fairly developed infrastructure required for manufacture and transportation of goods.

The business leaders reported full backing by the departments of state and commerce toward realization of the program, which Pakistan officials believe will also help bolster the South Asian ally’s exports to the robust US market.

In addition to ROZs initiative, the United States has also committed to spend $ 750 million over a period of five years to help Pakistan carry out its sustainable economic development plan in the federally administered tribal areas, where the country has deployed about 90,000 troops to contain the threat of extremism on the Afghan border.

At the reception, Dr Maqsood Chaudhry said the PALC strives for fostering close and multifarious relationship between the two countries. Secretary Trade Development Authority thanked PALC for its efforts to help create a better understanding on trade and economic matters and for its lobbying for Pakistan on the Capitol Hill.

The Pakistani delegation includes leaders of chambers of commerce and chief executive officers of various companies. Trade Minister at the Pakistani embassy in Washington accompanied to the delegation to meetings.

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