WASHINGTON — Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had his second face-to-face meeting with President Bush Wednesday, but the White House remained mum on whether it will grant apparel and textile trade breaks to Pakistan.

Bush said he discussed economic assistance with Musharraf during an hour-long meeting in the Oval Office this morning, but he stopped short of announcing offers of economic assistance at a morning news conference at the White House.

“We want to help facilitate the president’s concerns about a debt burden on Pakistan and we want to talk about trade matters,” said Bush. “We want to help him achieve his vision of elevating the average citizen by giving them a chance and a hopeful opportunity for life.”

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in a briefing afterward that the administration is offering “new money” to Pakistan in the 2003 budget, which must be approved by Congress, in the form of $200 million in economic assistance to help the country pay down its debt.

However, Fleischer said no deal has been finalized on apparel and textile breaks.

“Textiles discussions are ongoing,” Fleischer said. “There are many people on Capitol Hill who have strong opinions about this.”

Fleischer was referring to Capitol Hill textile-state lawmakers who were given promises by the administration to minimize the impact of Pakistani trade breaks on the domestic textile industry.

Musharraf then told reporters in a press conference at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld late in the afternoon that he plans to increase cooperation with the U.S. in the war against terrorism and work out details of assistance in the future.

“We are partners with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism,” Musharraf said. “We did not quantify the return we will get for this.”

He did note, however, that he has discussed a list of requirements with administration officials and expects the U.S. to address them “as time passes.”

“I am very glad to say the United States understands our concerns and our shortcomings and we are glad to say we got necessary support from the U.S.,” he said.

The Pakistanis, who have been lobbying trade officials here since Monday, asked the Bush administration last fall to suspend U.S. tariffs and quotas on apparel and textiles — $1.93 billion for the January-to-November period — through 2004 in exchange for its help in the war on terrorism. But the Bush administration is caught in election-year politics and is apparently trying to strike a balance between rewarding an ally and honoring promises to Capitol Hill lawmakers, sources said.

Meanwhile, Musharraf, who attended a reception hosted by Coca-Cola Tuesday night at The Cosmo’s Club, sought to reaffirm ties with U.S. business executives.

Jerry Cook, vice president of international trade and lobbyist at Sara Lee Corp., and Michael Gale, Warnaco’s lobbyist, were among some 150 guests who met with Musharraf, who emphasized his efforts of political and economic reform and encouraged executives to invest in his country.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus