Official US Report Ignores Pakistan?s Anti-Israel Boycott

A US government report on international trade barriers ignores Pakistan’s long-standing boycott of Israeli-made goods, and Bush is not pressing Pakistan to drop its embargo of the Jewish state.

, | updated: 14:00

An investigation by INN International Correspondent Michael Freund found that Pakistan, an ostensible US ally in the war on terror, enforces an anti-Israel embargo that in many ways is stricter than that employed by numerous Arab countries. And because the Pakistani boycott applies to anything produced in Israel, it is bound to affect US manufacturers who use Israeli-made parts or components.

"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. "That is the policy of the government of Pakistan, which prohibits items made in Israel from being brought into the country."

Asked about products made in third countries that include 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."

Freund also found that the Pakistani government’s policy is outlined clearly in a series of official documents and reports. For example, the Pakistani Ministry of Commerce states in its policy manual entitled “Trade Policy 2005-6”, “Imports from Israel and goods of Israeli origin shall not be allowed.”

Similarly, the State Bank of Pakistan imposes restrictions on dealings with the Jewish state. In its official Foreign Exchange Manual, which contains the rules and regulations governing currency transactions in Pakistan, the Bank states, “It is not permissible to open letters of credit for imports into Pakistan in favor of beneficiaries in Israel or of goods originating from that country.”

Nevertheless, Freund discovered that the US Trade Representative’s Office (USTR), an official arm of the Bush Administration, has failed to raise the issue of Pakistan’s boycott, despite its possible impact on American manufacturers.

In a report recently submitted to President George W. Bush and the Congress known as the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, or NTE, the USTR devoted nine full pages to Pakistan, but makes no mention of its embargo on Israeli-made goods.

In addition, in a visit to Pakistan two weeks ago, the Assistant United States Trade Representative Douglas Alan Hartwick met with Pakistani Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan, but failed to raised the issue of Pakistan’s boycott of the Jewish state.

In various respects, the Pakistani boycott of Israel is more restrictive than that of several Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain and Oman, all of whom have ceased enforcing the anti-Israel boycott.

The policy also appears to violate Pakistan’s obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which aims to promote free trade among member states.

Yet when asked whether the US government was pressing Pakistan to change its policy, a spokesman for the US Trade Representative said only, “The Administration continues to work for the removal of boycotts against Israel and strongly supports political engagement between the parties to resolve their fundamental differences.”

Contacted by Freund, Rep. Ben Cardin, a ranking member of the US House of Representatives' Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, was incredulous over the US government’s handling of the issue.

“Any country that maintains a boycott against Israel should be written up in the US Trade Representative's annual report of trade barriers,” Cardin said.

“It seems incongruous to me," he added, "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."




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