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Trump wants to end special trade treatment for India



US president says India has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets

US President Donald Trump announced plans Monday to end special trade treatment for India, accusing it of unfairly shutting out American businesses, reported CNN.

In a letter to Congress, Trump signaled his intent to remove India from a program that gives developing countries easier access to US markets. The Indian government “has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets of India,” the letter said.

The notice comes just weeks before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces a general election.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Indian duties on US goods. In January, he took aim at India’s 150% tariff on imported whiskey. Over the weekend, he blasted India as a “high-tariff” country.

Now, he’s moving to take India out of the preferential trade program, known as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which lowers US duties on exports from 121 developing countries. India was the biggest beneficiary of the program in 2017, according to US data, with exemptions on goods worth $5.6 billion.

Indian Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said Tuesday that the total benefit to India from the exemptions amounted to only about $190 million a year, describing them as “minimal and moderate.”

Last April, the US government said it would review India’s eligibility in the program after some American companies said their dairy and medical device shipments to India were being hurt by non-tariff barriers.

Wadhawan said India had proposed a “reasonable and meaningful” trade package to the United States, but that the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

“There were some additional requests beyond that, which could not be accepted at this time,” he told reporters.

Trump’s letter to Congress starts a 60-day clock before he can take action, according to a statement from the Office of the US Trade Representative. The United States also plans to remove Turkey from the GSP program, the statement said, after finding that the country is “sufficiently economically developed” and no longer requires special access to the US market.

Trump’s move to end the preferential treatment of Indian goods comes just a few weeks after US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pulled out of a trip to the country at the last minute. The Commerce Department said bad weather at the time led to his flight being canceled.

The GSP isn’t the only source of tension in the two countries’ trading relationship, which was worth $126 billion in 2017.

Tensions between New Delhi and Washington have increased in recent years as Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” strategy has clashed with Modi’s campaign to “Make in India.”

India was one of many countries hit by US steel and aluminum tariffs last year. In retaliation, the Indian government announced its own tariffs on US goods worth $240 million, but it has yet to actually put them into effect.

Wadhawan said Tuesday that India would keep the possible retaliatory tariffs out of its continued trade discussions with the United States.


PM aide’s company gets approval for Mohmand Dam project despite controversy



Even though a controversy over the bidding process persisted, the Water and Power Develop­ment Authority (WAPDA) has granted approval to award of contract for the 800MW Mohmand dam project to a joint venture of China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) and Descon Engineering, reportedly owned by PM’s Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood.

WAPDA also instructed the project authorities to issue a letter of acceptance as per the rules, seeking mobilisation of the contractor by next month, consequent upon signing of an agreement.

“Since no contract for such a mega-hydropower project was signed during the last 50 years, thank God finally we have awarded the contract for the construction of the Mohmand dam to CGGC-Descon JV,” WAPDA Chairman Lt Gen (r) Muzammil Hussain told a local newspaper.

“The JV [joint venture], after being asked to rationalise the cost, has deducted Rs18 billion from the total cost,” he claimed.

WAPDA says the JV had earlier bid about Rs201bn for the project’s civil, electrical and mechanical works. However, during technical negotiations the JV rationalised the cost, reducing it to Rs183bn.

Upon completion, the project will store about 1.2 million acre feet of water and generate 800MW of low-cost electricity

The civil, electrical and mechanical works include construction of the dam, other related works, and installation and successful operation of the turbines. “Actually the PPRA rules don’t allow us to go into financial negotiations regarding cost of the project. However, the JV rationalised the prices during technical negotiations and finally reduced the total cost,” Lt Gen Hussain said.

The controversy over the bidding process of the project, meanwhile, continues as the media have revealed that Descon has close links to Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood.

Leaders of the opposition parties, including PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, termed the government’s act of cancelling the project’s second bidding on technical grounds “a bid to facilitate the company of the adviser”.

They also demanded of the government to review the bidding and conduct the same afresh. On the other hand, the government defended its decision, which was based on a single bid, saying the process was lawful.

WAPDA said the contract was awarded at a meeting held at the WAPDA House. “Following a comprehensive bidding and evaluation process and exhaustive technical negotiations, WAPDA at a meeting held here on Friday, accorded approval to award [of] contract to CGGC-Descon Joint Venture for civil and electro-mechanical works of the Mohmand Dam Hydropower Project,” reads a press release issued by a spokesperson for the authority.

Although under the PC-1 of the project its completion period is 68 months, WAPDA pledges to complete it within a period of less than five years.

“If all is well [proper cash flows, enabling environment, etc], we can complete it within a period of five years or even less than that. Though the contractor will mobilise to the site next month, we have already started various preliminary works — construction of the access road, geo-tech, seismic stations, etc. There is also no issue with land acquisition since we have already acquired the priority land,” the WAPDA chief maintained.

“They [landowners] are ready to surrender their land for the project. And according to them, we can start construction at any time,”

Lt Gen Hussain said the operation and maintenance of the project would be the sole responsibility of WAPDA. “We will not give O&M work to anyone, as WAPDA will do it on its own since it is a national property,” he said.

“The project will be considered to have been awarded to the JV when the contract will be signed in the near future,” said an official source.

The project is historic and unique as it will be constructed on Swat river in the Mohmand tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Upon completion, the project will store about 1.2 million acre feet of water, generate 800MW of low-cost electricity and help mitigate floods in Peshawar, Charsadda and Nowshera.

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Govt set to privatise 49 state-owned entities in five years



The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to privatise 49 state-owned entities over the next of five years.

According to a plan presented by Federal Privatisation Secretary Rizwan Malik, eight public entities including the Lahore Airport would be privatised during the first phase of the plan.

Other institutions included in the first phase are Haveli Bahadur Shah, Balloki Power Plant, First Women’s Bank and SME Bank.

Malik presented the plan in a session of the Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation chaired by Mir Muhammad Yousaf Badini.

The secretary told the committee that two liquefied natural gas power plants would also be sold in the first phase of the privatisation plan. He added the government was aiming to complete the initial phase in a period of 12 to 18 months.

Sharing details of the second phase, Malik said 41 public-owned entities would be up for privatisation over a period of three to five years.

The secretary told the committee members that several small-scale state institutions had already been privatised and were now returning profits.

In October last year, the government decided to privatise only 11 entities – almost all profitable ones – and dropped all bleeding companies such as Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills from its active list of privatisation.

The board had also recommended privatising four banking and insurance companies, three oil and gas sector companies, two LNG-fired recently constructed power plants, two hotels owned by PIA and one real estate sector transaction.

The board approved the strategic sale of the loss-making SME Bank Limited, the First Women Bank Limited, and the Pakistan Reinsurance Company Limited.

It also approved to divest the shares of the State Life Insurance Corporation on the stock exchange.

The board also approved three capital market transactions of the Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited, the Pakistan Petroleum Limited and the Mari Petroleum Limited.

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Hyundai Nishat to launch two vehicles on Saturday



Hyundai-Nishat Motors is set to start selling two vehicle variants beginning Saturday, which will mark the first time the joint venture will release vehicles in Pakistan.

This is a positive development for Pakistan’s automobile market, which has been dominated by three Japanese automakers Indus Motors, Pak Suzuki Motors and Honda Atlas since the past three decades.

Hyundai-Nishat Motors is considering starting its operations with the sale of fully loaded sports utility vehicle (SUV)-Santa Fe.

Across the world, the Santa Fe is available in seven different models, however, as per officials the number of models Hyundai-Nishat Motors intends to introduce is not yet known.

And the second variant to be unveiled includes Grand Starex, a 12-seat light commercial vehicle (LCV) for commuting purposes.

Both the models will be unveiled in Lahore on Saturday alongside Pakistan’s 1st digital store, which will include an innovative automotive retail concept, which will utilize immersive 3D technology to enhance customer buying experiences.

In an interview to a local publication earlier this month, Mansha said hybrid vehicles were already here for trial testing and there was a reasonable demand for them and will be available for sale within the next two months.

Mansha highlighted that technology was advancing rapidly in the automobile sector and in future mobility was being heralded to be fueled through hydrogen.

He said that Hyundai-Nishat plant is under construction and will likely commence production by the end of this year or start of 2020.

The business tycoon revealed Hyundai-Nishat venture the joint venture will roll out 7,000 cars at the start and increase it up to 30,000 cars in the forthcoming five years.

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