By and  on February 12, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is scheduled to arrive here today amidst uncertainty whether the White House will extend further textile and apparel trade benefits as a thank-you for helping in the war on terrorism.

The Pakistani's request for trade breaks has been mired in election-year politics, resulting in the Bush administration being caught between rewarding a valuable Mideast ally and honoring promises to Capitol Hill textile-state lawmakers to minimize the impact of Pakistani trade breaks on domestic mills.

Pakistan's Commerce Minister Abdul Razaq Dawood arrived in Washington on Monday in advance of Musharraf's arrival and meeting Wednesday at the White House with President Bush. Some kind of U.S. announcement regarding Pakistan is scheduled that day at a Rose Garden news conference.

A spokesman for the National Security Council said Monday that there "may" be an announcement of "further assistance" for Pakistan during a Bush-Musharraf meeting at the White House. However, the spokesman said it was "too early to talk about" whether textile and apparel concessions will be included.

Grant Aldonas, Undersecretary of Trade at the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, told reporters Monday that the administration is still mulling its decision on possible Pakistani textile-apparel trade breaks, "as well as what we're trying to do in terms of establishing a longer-term relationship with the Pakistanis."

Acknowledging opposition from the domestic textile industry to expanding Pakistani market access, Aldonas said: "There are plenty of issues that our industry has with Pakistan that we'd like to have a forum where we could continue to have conversation and work on that."

Last week, Aldonas tested one trade-break proposal with House and Senate textile-state lawmakers, which would allow Pakistan to shift 25 percent of its unused quota to categories where quota has been used up or is about to be closed, like cotton yarn, apparel and home furnishings. Administration officials pitched their Pakistan quota plan -- amounting to $100 million to $150 million in increased imports -- as being far less onerous to U.S. mills than granting Pakistan the menu of trade breaks the country is seeking, sources said.

The White House doesn't need congressional approval for changes in quota, but Bush officials wanted to assure GOP allies from textile states, particularly in the House, that they were honoring lawmakers' concerns about minimizing the impact on domestic mills of any breaks for Pakistan, sources said.

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