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Dastgir arrives in US to hold trade talks

Dastgir arrives in US to hold trade talks

ISLAMABAD: Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir has arrived at Washington DC to attend a meeting on Trade and Investment Framework Agreement from 13-15 May 2014.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama during their meeting held in October, 2013, resolved to resume discussions on trade and investment through the agreement.

Dastgir will meet US Trade Representative Michael Forman in the 7th Council meeting, said an official statement. According to sources, Pakistan maintains that the US should compensate it in lieu of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) which were shelved. However, the US administration response is not encouraging.

US has not given any positive signal about the grant of General System of Preferences (GSP) status to Pakistan.

The US Administration is pressing Pakistan to sign its proposed draft of Bilateral Investment Treaty which is not acceptable to Islamabad. The US embassy in Islamabad stated that it is unaware of an extension of GSP for Pakistan after it lapsed on July 31, 2013. Pakistan enjoyed a substantial duty free access to the US market through the GSP programme.

The Congressional authorisation of the programme expired on July 31, 2013 and during the lapsed period otherwise-eligible GSP imports from Pakistan and other GSP beneficiary countries are subject to normal trade relations (MFN) duties. Pakistan has a trade surplus with the United States. Annual Pakistan-US trade volume is $ 5 billion, while US remains the largest single export market for Pakistan.

Commerce Minister would emphasise further enhancement of trade relations between the two countries. The US administration would also be requested to facilitate the export of Pakistani products to the American market. During the meeting, areas of mutual interest will be discussed and a long-term joint plan would be developed to give the much-needed boost to trade and investment between the two countries. The meeting will also discuss issues such as trade facilitation, Intellectual Property Rights protection & enforcement, business outreach programs and building entrepreneurship and creating linkages of Pakistani exporters with the US market.

A strong business delegation comprising leading names from textiles & apparel sector would also be accompanying Commerce Minister to hold a business roundtable with US buying houses. Dastgir will also hold a roundtable meeting with leading US Information Technology companies to encourage them to outsource from Pakistan. The minister would also hold several bilateral meetings with the US government officials besides delivering keynote addresses at different think tanks and policy institutes.