US Assistant Trade Representative Michael Delaney and Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood led their delegations at the fifth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) meeting. — File Photo


ISLAMABAD: At the end of two days of talks, Pakistan and the United States agreed on Wednesday to continue engagement at a higher level for further liberalisation of trade regimes between the two countries.

US Assistant Trade Representative Michael Delaney and Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood led their delegations at the fifth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) meeting.

The meeting took up various issues ranging from investment to establishment of reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs).

About the outcome of the meetings, the commerce secretary said: “The trading engagement is positive between the two countries. We should continue these talks to further enhance trade relations between the two countries.”

After the meetings, the US embassy in Islamabad issued a joint statement.

It said officials from both sides discussed a wide range of investment climate issues including market access, the US Generalised System of Preferences, trade promotion efforts, intellectual property rights and sector-specific investment challenges.

The two sides agreed to work together on measures that will promote private sector engagement between the two countries and create legitimate and productive enterprises for the Pakistani people. As part of that effort, the US will work with the Congress to enact ROZ legislation.

The statement said both delegations reviewed trade promotion efforts and agreed to continue collaboration, including support for Pakistani exhibitors to participate in major US trade shows.

Pakistan also asked for support of its programme to assist women-owned enterprises in rural areas of the country.

It said the US delegation agreed to follow up on the proposal once it was received. Pakistan provided an overview of its efforts to export mangoes to the US and expressed its satisfaction in the assistance they received, but mentioned that additional work must be done.

The US delegation confirmed its continued support for the ongoing Pakistan trade capacity-building programme.

In addition to the Tifa Council meeting, the US and Pakistani delegations also met on Wednesday representatives from the Pakistan Institute of Fashion & Design in Lahore. The institute works to modernise and diversify the textiles and apparel industry in Pakistan.

The delegations discussed ways to enhance its capacity, including prospects for developing linkages with similar US institutions.

The statement said the two delegations also met US and Pakistani companies to discuss their experience as investors in Pakistan and listened to their views about how to improve the trade and investment climate in both countries.

The parties expressed their desire to reach agreement in the coming weeks on dates for the next Tifa Council meeting, to be held in Washington next year.

Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood said that the approval of ROZs legislation was delayed because it was a unilateral concession offered by the US to Pakistan, which could take longer for Congress approval.

He said that the ‘conditions are not conducive’ for passing such legislation like ROZs. However, he clarified that the ROZs was not a dead issue.

The secretary informed the US delegation that under the current requirement that mangoes be irradiated at the plant in Iowa, commercial shipments in sizeable quantities were not a viable option.

“We hope the US will review this condition and allow pre-shipment irradiation in Pakistan. This is imperative for commercially feasible shipments of the fruit to the US,” he added.

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