Even as the US and Pakistan move towards strengthening their commercial relationship, Washington has refrained from pressing Islamabad to drop its anti-Israel trade embargo, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Post also found that Pakistan imposes a wide range of restrictions on all types of commercial activity with the Jewish state, in some cases more so than a number of Arab countries, leading to calls in the US Congress for increased pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to change his country's policy.
"Products from Israel are not allowed to be imported into Pakistan," Saira Abbas, director of the Pakistani Commerce Ministry's head office in Islamabad, said in a telephone interview. "That is the policy of the government of Pakistan, which prohibits items made in Israel from being brought into the country."
Asked about products manufactured elsewhere that might incorporate Israeli-made parts, Abbas said that, "Even an item made in America which contains components made in Israel will not be allowed into our country."
Nonetheless, despite the possible implications of the policy for US manufacturers of products that contain Israeli-made parts, the Bush administration has failed to push Pakistan to end the boycott.
During a visit to Pakistan 10 days ago, Assistant United States Trade Representative Douglas Alan Hartwick met with Pakistani Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan to discuss a number of topics, ranging from a proposed bilateral investment treaty to the protection of intellectual property rights.
The question of Pakistan's trade policies vis-a-vis Israel, however, did not come up, according to Christin Baker, the assistant US trade representative for public and media affairs. In addition, the Post found that Pakistan's policy of boycotting the Jewish state was ignored in the US Trade Representative's annual report to the president and the Congress documenting foreign barriers on trade and investment.
The report, compiled annually in accordance with US law, is called the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, or NTE, and the most recent version was released at the end of March.
Although the NTE contains a section concerning the impact of the Arab League boycott of the Jewish state, the nine-page chapter devoted to Pakistan makes no mention of its embargo on all goods and services originating in Israel, even though this might impact US businesses in various fields such as computer software and telecommunications.
In response, Neena Moorjani, press secretary for the US Trade Representative's Office, told the Post, "The NTE is required by statute to review the most important foreign barriers affecting US exports of goods and service, US foreign direct investment and protection of intellectual property rights. US firms have not cited boycott activity against US goods with Israeli components as a factor affecting their exports to Pakistan," she said, adding, "Hence, the issue was not covered in the NTE."
But that explanation did not appear to satisfy members of Congress involved in overseeing US trade policy.
Rep. Ben Cardin, a ranking member of the US House of Representatives' Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, told the Post, "any country that maintains a boycott against Israel should be written up in the US Trade Representative's annual report of trade barriers. It seems incongruous to me," Cardin said, "that senior US trade officials are not raising this issue in meetings with senior Pakistani officials. I believe we need to accelerate our efforts to resolve this issue in a way that leads to the ultimate elimination of the boycott."
The Pakistani policy of prohibiting Israeli-made products is widespread and is outlined explicitly in a series of official Pakistani documents and regulations.