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Congress Introduces ROZ Legislation

Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would allow duty-free access for certain goods coming from designated areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under the legislation, goods such as rugs, gemstones and handicrafts produced in the "reconstruction opportunity zones," or ROZs, in the two countries would enter the U.S. duty-free.

The legislation, championed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would both provide economic opportunities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and increase cooperation between the two countries. Terrorist and extremist groups in both countries prey on poverty to gain recruits, and ROZs would serve to allow increased investment and job creation and spur development.

During a press conference to announce the legislation, Ambassador Jawad stressed that ROZs provide jobs for Afghans and security for the region. "We are seeing an increase of military forces, which is very much needed. But at the same time, fighting terrorism is not just killing terrorists. It's providing hope and jobs for the Afghan people," he said.

In an op-ed published last year, Khaleda Atta, Afghanistan's commercial attaché to the U.S., and Hawa Ghaus, Legislative Counsel of the Embassy of Afghanistan, argued for the legislation to be passed by Congress. "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."

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