A “robust trade relationship” between the United States and Pakistan is important to bolster the latter’s economic stability, especially after last year’s devastating floods, and expose American businesses to new markets, the US State Department has said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the remarks in response to a query at a weekly press briefing on Thursday.

“We believe that a robust trade relationship between the United States and Pakistan is more important than ever to bolster Pakistan’s economic stability as it recovers from devastating floods, while at the same time also providing an opportunity to Americans and to American businesses in this country, exposing them to new markets — Pakistani markets in this case,” he said.

The comments come at a time when Pakistan is looking for breakthroughs in talks on the US-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

The two sides on Thursday held their first ministerial-level meeting of a Pak-US trade and investment body in seven years, where Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar sought greater cooperation in the IT sector.

Speaking to the press today, Price referred to the meeting and reiterated the US commitment to “deepening our economic and commercial ties with Pakistan”, adding the trade relationship has “helped both Pakistani industries and consumers”.

“We have long been Pakistan’s largest export market, with potential for even further growth. And we believe there is great potential to expand bilateral trade with Pakistan further, particularly in energy, agricultural equipment and products, franchising, retail trade, information and communications technology products and services,” he said.

Furthermore, Price pointed out that the US was a leading investor in Pakistan for the past two decades, with investments increasing to 50 per cent in the past year.

“US investment in Pakistan is the highest it’s been in over a decade, and US corporations have announced more than $1.5 billion in investment plans in Pakistan since 2019.

“US companies and their local affiliates, moreover, are among Pakistan’s largest employers, with roughly 80 US companies directly employing more than 120,000 Pakistanis,” the spokesperson added.

‘Afghan Taliban should live up to their commitments’

In response to a question on the rise in terror incidents in the region, Price said that the US and Pakistan “have a shared interest in ensuring the [Afghan] Taliban live up to the commitments that they have made”.

“That terrorist groups that may be active in Afghanistan […] are no longer able to threaten regional stability.

“Our engagement on this subject is rooted in the fact that terrorism is a threat that has taken many Pakistani, Afghan, and other innocent lives over the course of far too many years now,” the spokesperson added.

On Wednesday, a high-ranking Pakistani delegation met Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund, Defence Minister Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in a one-day visit to Kabul.

The delegation among others included ISI Chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Foreign Secretary Asad Majid, Special Envoy on Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and Pakistan’s chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan Obaid Nizamani.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism.

Over the past few months, terrorism has been rearing its head again in the country, especially in KP and Balochistan. There has been a rise in terrorist attacks believed to have been planned and directed by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) leaders based in Afghanistan.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, executed more than 100 attacks last year, most of which happened after August when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended last year on Nov 28 by the TTP.

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