ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Investment (MoI) is hopeful for the completion of mutually agreed final draft of Pak-US Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by April this year, as bilateral consultations on unresolved issues have already started afresh.

Federal Minister for Investment Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan told Daily Times on Saturday that bilateral consultations at the level of United States Trade Representative (USTR) office and government of Pakistan have already started to settle the issues so that both sides could move fast for finalisation of this important agreement.

He said that the government of Pakistan has hired the services of a Swiss consultancy firm for analysing suitability of Pak-US BIT to reach at final decision on its signing. Similarly, top officials at Ministry of Law and Justice are also analysing the provisions of the proposed BIT agreement forwarded by the US authorities, he added.

Khan informed that issues pertaining to arbitration, transparency clause still require consultation and resolution. In this regard, Pakistan had sought final comments from the US so that things could be finalised by mutual consent. In a recent meeting with US Ambassador and US Commercial Attaché, the Ministry of Investment has also sought final opinion of US authorities in draft of the BIT.

Once the US reply, report of the Swiss consultancy firm and final view of the Ministry of Law and Justice is available with the Investment Division a detailed review would be initiated at highest level and final negotiations round would be held for completion of final draft acceptable to both countries. Incase final draft is ready by April 2009 then it would be placed before the federal cabinet for formal approval, said Khan.

An effort was made to conclude BIT with outgoing Bush administration before January 20, 2009 in the US but this effort could not yield desired results. Now Pakistan would negotiate and conclude BIT agreement with Barack Obama led US administration and a round of negotiation would be held between the two governments on appropriate time in near future, the minister said.

He dispelled the impression that signing of BIT with US would be harmful for the economy as well as for the country and said that few issues require final settlement and this agreement would be beneficial for Pakistan, he added.

The Pakistan People’s Party led coalition government has decided to obtain legal as well as expert opinion on the draft of the BIT, in this regard, draft has been handed over to the Ministry of Law and Justice and private legal consultants (Swiss consultancy firm) so that its clauses could be analysed keeping in view the international best practices, said the minister.

Pakistan is of the view that signatory countries to BIT do not use any political influence or any media campaign if any matter is referred for arbitration as well as transparency is upheld by both sides for mutual benefit, the minister explained.

Its worth to mention here that during the tenure of former President General ® Pervez Musharraf, there were some apprehensions in the government ministries over the signing of BIT with the US. Due to which signing of this crucial agreement was cancelled during the visit of President Bush to Pakistan.

Source: Daily Times