The fourth meeting of the US – Pakistan Trade and Investment Council, created in 2003 with the signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), took place on 27th April in Washington. The objectives of the council include monitoring trade and investment relations, identifying trade and investment opportunities, consulting on specific trade and investment matters and working towards the removal of impediments to trade and investment flows.
According to a joint statement released by the office of the Unites States Trade Representative (USTR), the meeting “builds on the commitments made during the recent U.S. and Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to develop an open, results-oriented partnership between our two countries. This meeting demonstrates the continuing close cooperation between Pakistan and the United States on economic, trade, and investment issues”.
The meeting specifically addressed the monitoring and enforcement of labour rights and laws in Pakistan, as well as the review of on-going trade capacity-building programmes. The parties also exchanged views on the issue of property rights enforcement in Pakistan, and obstacles to investments in specific sectors. Both sectors agreed that greater private sector participation in the bilateral initiatives was called for.
Representatives of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US government agency, and of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) also took part in the meeting, and provided an overview of their present programmes in Pakistan together with their perspective on possible future cooperation areas. On-going agricultural cooperation programmes by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) were thoroughly reviewed, and possibilities for expansion discussed.
Pakistan is putting considerable effort into building stronger and sustained commercial and investment ties with the USA as part of its economic and social development thrust. In exchange for a US commitment to grant market access to Pakistani exports, creating jobs, and fostering investment in the Asian country, Pakistan is expected to maintain its support and active involvement in NATO (North-Atlantic Treaty Organization) and US counter-terrorist operations in the region. In this sense, it is no coincidence that the TIFA was signed only after the unexpectedly long duration of the Afghanistan War made it necessary for the USA to assure Pakistani support in the long term.
The fifth council meeting, whose date has not yet been set, will be held in Islamabad.