Islamabad: Pakistan and the United States officials agreed to appoint focal persons to ensure the removal of trade barriers and boost economic ties, the commerce ministry said. Pakistan looks forward to improving ties, particularly in the IT, technology, and agriculture sectors.
Pakistani commerce minister Syed Naveed Qamar discussed trade ties with US Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, Dilawar Syed, in Washington on Thursday. The commerce minister is visiting Washington to attend a Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) ministerial meeting between Pakistan and the US after seven years. The last US-Pakistan TIFA meeting was held in Islamabad in 2016.
The two sides expressed hopes that the meeting would serve as a “catalyst” in boosting trade ties and strengthening Pakistan-US relations.
Qamar and Syed discussed bilateral trade, foreign direct investments in Pakistan, the business operations of US companies working in Pakistan, and Islamabad’s exports to the United States.
“Discussing trade-related operational issues, it was decided to appoint a focal person, on both sides, to prioritize, coordinate and ensure removal of impediments for smooth functioning of the businesses,” according to the commerce ministry.
Qamar welcomed the resumption of the TIFA ministerial meeting after a gap of seven years.
The current trade volume of around $12 billion “does not reflect the true potential existing between the two countries, keeping in view the size of the US economy and a huge market of Pakistan with a sizable and vibrant middle class and youth bulge,” the commerce minister said.
He expressed hope that “the momentum generated from the resumption of high-level talks would lead to a breakthrough in realizing the trade potential between the two countries.”
TIFA offers a forum for the two countries to discuss bilateral trade and investment including exploring access for Pakistani exports to the US market. In the latest meeting, the two sides reviewed the progress in trade, investments, agriculture, food security, and IT cooperation and discussed ways to further strengthen ties.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Masood Khan, secretary board of investment Asad Gillani, deputy chief of mission Syed Naveed Bokhari, minister trade Azmat Mahmood accompanied the Pkaistani commerce minister. Dilawar Sayed was accompanied by Elizabeth Horst, principal deputy assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary for Pakistan, Brian J. McGrath and Jeff Rubenstein.
Focus on tech
During a session with Pakistan-American IT entrepreneurs and professionals, the commerce minister Qamar emphasized enhancing technology exports. “Our future is IT. If we don’t facilitate the IT industry, the goal of enhancing Pakistan’s exports would remain elusive,” he said.
He added that the IT sector was the one major area where facilitation and the right set of policies could witness exponential growth in the near future. The tech experts attending the meeting suggested establishing a Pakistan consulate in San Francisco to serve as an IT hub for Pakistani professionals and experts.
The participants also suggested simplification of tax regime for IT businesses, training and capacity building of the IT professionals, simplification of processes of receiving funds, the introduction of IT subjects in schools and colleges, efficient inter-ministerial coordination, digitalization and adoption of policies to benefit from the technology potential.