A Republican senator introduced a bill on Tuesday that would give President George W Bush new powers to reduce or suspend US duties on textile shipments from Pakistan, a crucial ally in the US bombing of neighbouring Afghanistan.
But officials said the Bush administration, which proposed the sweeping tariff cuts earlier this month, was having second thoughts, fearing a backlash by lawmakers from textile-producing states.
Introduced by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, the legislation comes on the heels of a White House aid package for Pakistan, which has helped the US military campaign against Saudi-born radical Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is described by US officials as the chief suspect in the deadly September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
“There are very real economic and social consequences in Pakistan for assisting the United States in our war effort,” Brownback said in a statement.
“By failing to help strengthen the market for Pakistani textile exports by adjusting or eliminating tariffs on Pakistani textiles and textile products, we will only be strengthening the social and economic unrest in Pakistan on which fundamentalists prey,” he added.
The Pakistan Textile and Apparel Group, a coalition of Pakistani exporters, said the Brownback bill would encourage US companies to continue to do business with Pakistani firms and urged Congress to pass it as quickly as possible.
“Unless our industry gets relief soon, Pakistan’s economy will be in serious trouble,” said Azfar Hasan, a spokesman for the group.
“We desperately need immediate relief from tariffs to keep our factories running and our workers on the job,” Hasan said in a statement.
Textile exports are an important source of revenue for Pakistan. Last year, it sold $1.9 billion in clothing and textiles to the United States.
However, the US textile industry, which has had huge job losses in recent years, opposes easing the textile duties on Pakistan.
Key lawmakers from textile-produci