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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 14:05 GMT
Pakistan export boom 'at risk'
Trucks near Afghan border
Pakistan's textile exports received EU help after the Afghan war
Pakistan's exports are growing strongly and look set to top $10bn (6.2bn) a year for the first time, according to local exporters.

Textile exports have been boosted by European Union (EU) tariff cuts, designed to bolster Pakistan's economy amid disruption caused by regional efforts to counter the Al-Qaeda terror network.

But Pakistani business leaders fear exports could be hurt by tighter US immigration laws, which require men from 20 mostly Muslim countries to register with immigration officials by 16 February.

"It will hit our exports, especially textiles," said Haroon Rashid, vice-president of the Pakistani Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Anxiety

Pakistan's foreign minister has reportedly asked the US to take Pakistan off the list.

The US Supreme Court is to hear a lawsuit filed by four US-Muslim groups, which say immigration officials breached the civil rights of hundreds of Muslim men detained after arriving to register voluntarily.

An estimated 50,000 Pakistanis are also thought to be living illegally in the US and could face deportation.

Pakistan's commerce minister has set an export target of $10.4bn (6.5bn) for the year to June 2003, saying the government wants to break records during its first year in office.

Export boom

The target is already half realised, with exports of $5.1bn in the six months to end-2002, up 16% on the year-earlier period. Exports were $9.1bn in the year to June 2002.

Textiles make up 60% of Pakistan's exports, with cotton playing the biggest role.

The Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association reported an 11.2% rise in cotton output and 16% increase in textile exports in the current financial year, the Business Recorder newspaper said.

"We have come out of the shadow of the 11 September events... our exports are doing well on the back of increased orders from the EU and US," said textile exporter Majyd Aziz in an interview with Reuters news agency.

Mr Aziz said the trend in textiles suggested Pakistan's exports would cross the $10bn threshold by June.

Aid after 11 September

The EU abolished tariffs on imports of Pakistani textiles in the aftermath of 11 September, wiping out duties of about $150m a year.

Pakistan's economy has also benefited from a US debt forgiveness package worth more than $3bn.

"The growth we see is based on sound, solid foundations, not aberrations," said prime ministerial economic aide Shaukat Aziz.

Pakistan's economy is expected to grow 4.6% in the current financial year, compared to 3.6% last year, due to a mix of lower debt, booming stock markets and rising foreign exchange reserves.

See also:

29 Nov 02 | Business
23 Nov 02 | South Asia
21 Nov 02 | South Asia
21 Nov 02 | South Asia
07 Nov 02 | Business
23 Aug 02 | Business
22 Oct 01 | Business
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