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ISLAMABAD, Aug 30: Pakistan and US have succeeded to narrow differences and jointly evolve a consensus draft of Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which will now go through political process before being signed in the very near future, Chairman of Board of Investment, Saleem H. Mandviwalla, said here on Thursday.

Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the three days of negotiations with the visiting six-member US negotiating team, Mr Mandviwalla, however, gave no specific timeframe as to when the treaty would be signed.

Explaining the internal process, he said the draft would need clearance by the cabinet in Pakistan and a nod of Congress in the US. The process is expected to start next week, he said.

Mandviwalla said: “BIT is very important for us as our eventual goal is to go for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.”

When asked about the objections raised by stakeholders, Mandviwalla said: “It is a live document; keeps on developing with addition of new elements. It is a moving document; always new ideas are incorporated like other treaties.”

For the United States, ‘essential security’ forms important part of the treaty.

In reply to a question, he said that the objections on certain elements of BIT raised by State Bank of Pakistan, Ministry of Commerce, Planning Commission and other stakeholders have been removed and all of them are now on board.

Though no timeframe is given by either side for the signing of the treaty, Pakistan and the United States are organising an investor conference in London on October 4-5 where investors from the two countries will meet to set directions of investments on bilateral basis, BoI chairman announced.

About areas of investment, he said investment will be opened to all areas except two banned sectors of nuclear and arms and ammunitions. However, cooperation in other fields of defence would be open like Pakistan has defence cooperation with China, US and France. Insurance, banking, aviation and maritime would be among the areas of bilateral investment.

Mandviwalla said that US has already expressed its desire to establish a maintenance and repair shop for aircraft of PIA at Karachi.

According to BoI, negotiations for BIT started in 2004 and continued till 2006. After five years of deadlock, BoI took the initiative to re-launch the negotiation process in 2011. A number of video conferences with Washington took place to hammer out the differences.

Consultations with local stakeholders also picked up momentum to firm up Pakistan’s position on different issues.

In March this year, the two countries initiated the treaty drafting and continued discussing non-conforming measures (NCM) to be attached with the treaty text. About NCM, Mr Mandviwalla said “it is a very important dimension.”

The BoI chairman, while discussing investment policies of Pakistan and India, said Pakistan has not forbidden any country of the world to make investment in Pakistan, whereas, in India, Pakistan is the only country which has been barred for making investment in India. Indian government does not allow their companies to come to Pakistan.

However, things are now moving and the Indian government was correcting its policies to invite Pakistani companies to make investment in India.

Indians now want an investment treaty with Pakistan but that would only be done once trade related matters are resolved with India, he said.

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