US hints at greater economic engagement with Pakistan

Published July 31, 2019
Official document points out that Pakistan, US traded $6.6b worth of goods last year, setting a new record. — APP/File
Official document points out that Pakistan, US traded $6.6b worth of goods last year, setting a new record. — APP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan can further enhance bilateral trade if strategic ties between the two countries continue to improve, said a White House factsheet released on Tuesday.

The factsheet “Working toward Peace and Stability: Building Economic Prosperity” notes that the United States and Pakistan enjoy a strong economic partnership that benefits both countries.

The official document points out that Pakistan and the US traded $6.6 billion worth of goods last year, setting a new record of bilateral trade.

While the document recognises Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process, US officials recently also urged Islamabad to encourage transit trade between India and Afghanistan, noting that it would benefit all by enhancing trade between South and Central Asian regions.

President Donald Trump also expressed his desire to increase trade with Pakistan when asked at his July 22 news briefing what his administration was willing to do to help boost the Pakistani economy.

“Yes, I see great trade with Pakistan. And I’m not talking about a little bit more. I’m talking about — we could go 10 and even 20 times what we’re doing right now,” he said.

“You know, Pakistan is a big country. It’s actually a very big country, and they have tremendous product. They make great product,” he added.

“I’ve bought from Pakistan over the years when I was in the private sector. They make incredible product. They’re brilliant people. They’re hard-working people.”

He said that he believed the US and Pakistan could “have a fantastic trade relationship. I don’t mean we’ll increase it by 20 per cent. I mean, I think we can quadruple it. I think it could go — I mean, literally, it sounds crazy — you could go 10 times more. You could go 20 times more.”

He said he believed in multiplying trade with Pakistan because he felt “what we do right now is not much, and we should do a lot.”

Trump’s statement and the White House factsheet endorse Islamabad’s claim that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s US visit was a success, although it also highlights the key issues that need to be resolved to further enhance this relationship.

The document notes that Pakistan also purchased extensive amounts of American liquefied natural gas during the same period, about 22.8 billion cubic feet.

ExxonMobil re-established its presence in Pakistan in 2018 after 27 years and is working to increase LNG imports.

It lays greater emphasis on economic relations than did recent statements by US officials, who focused more on Pakistan’s cooperation in restoring peace to Afghanistan.

American energy producers are seeing more and more business opportunities with Pakistan and American companies are incorporating cutting-edge technologies into energy projects throughout Pakistan, the document adds.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2019

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