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Resolution Introduced to Create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones

On June 26, 2008, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced legislation that would create reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The legislation, titled the Afghanistan-Pakistan Security and Prosperity Enhancement Act, would allow qualified businesses duty-free access into U.S. markets for designated products.

If passed by the Congress, the ROZs will enable non-trade sensitive exports from Afghanistan and Pakistan such as rugs, gemstones and handicrafts to enter the U.S. duty-free. These exports would provide a compelling economic incentive for private sector investment in the two countries and become an additional source of jobs for the people of these two nations desperate for employment.

In introducing the legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Van Hollen highlighted the importance of providing economic opportunities to those in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a means to promoting development and fighting extremism. "Enhanced security efforts by the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan are needed to disrupt and weaken Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but security measures alone will not rid them of these menacing groups—terrorists who continue to want to do us harm and are a threat to democracy and the rule of law," he noted. "These extremist groups exploit the poor socioeconomic conditions, such as high unemployment, in the border areas, to gain adherents to their nefarious causes. With no meaningful alternatives, young men in particular are vulnerable to their entreaties."

On April 22, 2008, Khaleda Atta, Afghanistan's commercial attaché to the U.S., and Hawa Ghaus, Legislative Counsel of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., published an op-ed in The Hill outlining the positive case for the ROZs. "Strengthening Afghanistan’s private sector is the most sustainable approach to empowering ordinary Afghans to build their common future," they wrote. "If the U.S. Congress passes this legislation, the resulting prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan will serve as a down payment against extremism and terrorism."

In a letter to Rep. Van Hollen, Ambassador Said T. Jawad thanked him for his leadership on the issue. "We admire your visionary leadership and passionate efforts in the House of Representatives to help identify and support durable solutions to critical global problems, affecting the United States and your allies," he wrote. "ROZs is one such strategic solution to one of key security problems of our time."

Rep. Van Hollen was joined by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (D-Mich.), Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.) in introducing the legislation. The U.S. Senate is considering similar legislation sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

Related:

State Department Statement on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (06/27/2008)

 

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