WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan held trade talks on Thursday as Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar sought greater cooperation in the IT sector.

“Our future is IT. If we don’t facilitate this industry, the goal of enhancing Pakistan’s exports would remain elusive,” said the minister while addressing Pakistani American IT professionals and entrepreneurs.

US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai hosted Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and his team for talks on the US-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Secr­etary Commerce Muhammad Sualeh Faruqi and Pakistan’s US Ambassador Masud Khan also atte­nded the meeting.

The US team included the Biden administration’s chief trade administrator Doug McKalip and Assistant United Trade Represe­ntative Chris Wilson.

Initial reports suggested that the talks focused on seeking greater access to the IT market in the US for Pakistani products and professionals. Pakistan is also seeking to expand its agricultural exports to the United States.

Despite recent political strains, the US remains the largest export market for Pakistani goods, with a bilateral trade volume of $12 billion.

In a virtual meeting with Pakistani-American IT professionals, the commerce minister said that better facilities and the right policies could lead to exponential growth in the IT sector.

The participants suggested creating a conducive environment for the growth of the IT sector in the country and also for strengthening Pak-US trade ties. The suggestions included simplification of the tax regime for IT businesses, training, and capacity building of the IT professionals, simplified transactions, the introduction of IT subjects in schools and colleges and better inter-ministerial coordination.

The Pakistani American IT professionals asked for opening a consulate in San Francisco to serve as an IT hub for Pakistani professionals and area experts.

The minister said that strengthening Pak-US cooperation in the IT sector was one of the major agenda items at the TIFA talks. He hoped that the momentum generated by high-level talks would result in significant progress in all relevant areas including IT and technology sectors.

On Wednesday, the minister met US Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Dilawar Syed at the Embassy of Pakistan to discuss various options for enhancing bilateral trade.

“Matters related to bilateral trade, foreign direct investments, business operation of US companies and exports to the United States were discussed during the meeting,” said a press note issued by the Pakistan Embassy.

The commerce minister welcomed the resumption of the TIFA ministerial meeting after a gap of almost 8 years. “The momentum generated with the resumption of these high-level talks would lead to a breakthrough in realizing trade potential between the two countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

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