WASHINGTON — Grant Aldonas, U.S. Commerce Undersecretary for International Trade, denied a news report Wednesday that claimed a U.S. official is in Pakistan to negotiate further apparel and textile duty and quota breaks.

Responding to a report in the Karachi-based Business Recorder, a webzine, Aldonas said a State Department official will discuss another Pakistani request for increased quota and duty-free market access for textiles. He called the report "completely and totally false."

"Nothing happens on this account without my direct involvement," said Aldonas, in an e-mail to Jock Nash, Washington counsel for textile titan Milliken & Co. Aldonas asked Nash to pass the message on.

"Will the Paks raise it?," Aldonas asked rhetorically. "I don’t doubt they will, but there is no negotiation and there won’t be further negotiations if I can help it."

Alan Larson, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business and Agriculture Affairs, is in Pakistan this week, but the nature of his meetings is unclear. Larson stopped in Pakistan as part of a three-country trip this week that also included stops in Afghanistan and India, according to his office.

At issue is whether the Pakistanis will request additional trade breaks in apparel and textiles on top of what the U.S. granted the country in February in exchange for its help in the war on terrorism. The Bush administration granted Pakistan more than $426 million in apparel quota increases in various apparel and textile categories over the course of three years, a gesture that fell far short of the broad menu of apparel and textile trade breaks the Pakistanis were seeking and U.S. mills were fighting. The increases went into effect on March 12.

Ashraf Hayat, minister of trade at the Pakistan embassy in Washington, said he had not been briefed on Larson’s visit, but claimed his government would most likely not make such a direct request.

"There is an effort to develop congruence with the political dimensions of our relationship and the economic and commercial [aspects]," he said.

Hayat noted that exports of apparel and textiles from Pakistan have declined since the beginning of the year, but said it was "premature" to discuss whether his government would seek further concessions."The benefits given to us were welcomed, but they didn’t translate into extra business," he said.

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