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Beyond Gestures: A Trade Bill That Will Make a Real Difference in Pakistan

This is a joint post with Wren Elhai.

A frustrated David Ignatius chided Congress in yesterday’s Washington Post for its dithering in passing legislation that would create “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (ROZs) in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Ignatius calls the ROZ initiative a “modest boost for the good guys” and laments that it is caught up in a partisan food fight in the Senate. We share his frustration over the Senate’s inaction, but we are less optimistic about the bill’s potential impact. In the legislation’s current form (details below), ROZs would at best be a token gesture that would be well received in Pakistan; at worst, they risk having little (if any) economic impact and creating expectations that cannot be met. If Senators are serious about promoting U.S. national security interests through economic progress in Pakistan, they should be prepared to go to the mat for something that will actually make a difference. Expanded trade access for all Pakistani exports from all of Pakistan is the best way to ensure a meaningful economic boost to Pakistan’s “good guys.”