8th US-Pakistan Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting: US-Pak to remain committed to expand bilateral trade & investment ties.

The United States and Pakistan have reiterated strong commitment to work together with the private sector to expand bilateral trade and investment ties, as part of an enduring, multifaceted bilateral relationship.

In October 2015 statement, USTR Froman commended Pakistan on progress in implementing an economic reform program that had stabilized Pakistan’s economy, and pledged continued U.S. cooperation on Pakistan’s reform and business climate agenda going forward.

Important outcomes of TIFA Council meeting include renewed outreach on the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program to Pakistani exporters; a commitment to jointly lead a high-level trade agricultural delegation from Pakistan to the United States in 2017, as well as facilitate over 20 additional Pakistani delegations to U.S. trade shows.

Improved Pakistan government dialogue with foreign pharmaceutical firms, especially concerning the business environment and the US facilitation of improved awareness of the process for bidding on US Department of Defense procurements that support US operations in Afghanistan are also among the key agreed points.

Moreover, identifying a phyto-sanitary irradiation facility in northeastern United States for Pakistani mango imports and progress on scheduling the next U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference

US Trade Representative Michael B. Froman and Pakistan Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan co-hosted the 8th annual U.S.-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The TIFA Council meeting also included discussion of investment climate issues, consultations on agricultural imports and exports, and clarification of Pakistani tax and tariffs policy including the phase-out of Statutory Regulatory Orders, which affect imports.

Pakistan renewed its request for better U.S. market access, especially for its apparel industry, and noted concerns about language in the U.S. Department of States’ travel warning on Pakistan and its impact on trade. The United States hosted a GSP outreach event with Pakistan business associations immediately following the TIFA Council meeting to increase awareness of the U.S. GSP program among Pakistani exporters.

More broadly, the TIFA Council meetings encompassed a wide agenda related to market access and proposals to increase bilateral trade and investment.  The two delegations finalized the 2016-2017 work plan of the 5-year Augmented Joint Action Plan to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment (announced during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his meeting with President Obama in late 2015). Continued implementation of this work plan will comprise the bulk of the TIFA Council’s work over the next twelve months.

Both sides reaffirmed their recognition of the strong bilateral, mutually advantageous economic ties and committed to strengthen those ties. They also agreed to convene the next TIFA Council meeting in the United States in 2017.

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is the premier bilateral engagement for strengthening U.S.-Pakistan trade and investment relations.  Since the launch of the TIFA (in 2003), U.S.-Pakistan bilateral trade has grown by over 50 percent. The United States is Pakistan’s largest country export destination and one of its largest sources of foreign direct investment.

Pakistan asked the United States to revise travel advisory, ensure a preferential access to its textile market and ease visa regime for exporters of IT related services to further strengthen trade ties between two countries.

Pakistan also sought preferential access to the US textile market on merit basis because Pakistan met all the required standards and criterions. Minister for Commerce, Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan said that there were several reasons for which Pakistan deserved preferential access to the US textile market.

“Several international institutions have substantiated Pakistan’s stable economy, while the security situation has also greatly improved that Pakistan is now a lot safer today than it was a few years ago,” the minister said. A durably stable Pakistan would not only bring prosperity to its people but would also play role in creating a stable region, which is our mutual goal, he added.

Ambassador Michael Forman was of the view that TIFA serves as a premier forum for advancing our trade investment relationship. Current economic relationship with Pakistan is just a fraction of what it could be and with TIFA we can seek that potential, he said. He was of the view that under the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, important structural reforms have been undertaken in Pakistan.

These reforms include economic and energy reforms that has resulted in enhancing overall economic growth and lowering inflation and which provides a conducive environment for further strengthening trade ties between two countries, the ambassador said.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed, ways and means to improve access of Pakistani exports to the United States, including those of textiles, agricultural items, enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Pakistan, establishing dispute resolution mechanisms, opening up of defence procurement in Afghanistan to Pakistani companies, holding the next business opportunities conference in Pakistan and other trade related matters.

The US delegation is led by Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative (USTR) at the meeting, and includes Ambassador David Hale, Matthew Vogel, Deputy USTR & Michael Delaney, AUSTR and Zeba Reyazuddin, Director South & Central Asia, USTR among others. The Pakistani delegation included Secretary Commerce Azmat Ranjha, Additional Secretary Commerce Asad Hayauddin and Trade Minister at Washington DC Ali Tahir.

In a separate meeting with Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Ambassador Froman acknowledged the improved investment climate and economic conditions in Pakistan and expressed full support to measures necessary for strengthening bilateral trade ties. Ambassador Froman said that Pakistan’s IT infrastructure was growing at a commendable pace and this is visibly providing opportunities for growth to SME’s through e Commerce.

He thanked the Finance Minister for Pakistan’s active engagement in the Trade and Services Agreement (TISA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and said that Pakistan was leading in this area in the region. He said that the US looked forward to further collaboration with Pakistan in the development of digital economy which can provide opportunities to far flung areas of Pakistan.

Melange Report.

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