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Musharraf for free trade agreement between Pakistan, United States

Pakistan Times

Musharraf for Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan, United States

By Sarah Kamal, ’Pakistan Times’ Special Correspondent

8 April 2007

RAWALPINDI: President General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday stressed the need for initiation of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and the United States to strengthen the bilateral relations by boosting trade and investment links.

Talking to a seven-member bipartisan Congressional delegation, led by Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the President underlined that the US Congress must continue to support initiatives to broaden and deepen Pakistan-US relations in diverse areas.

He said it was also essential to ensure that any legislation adopted by Congress should reinforce, and not undercut, the strategic cooperation between the two countries.

President Musharraf underlined the importance Pakistan attaches to a broad-based and long-term relationship with the United States. He noted with satisfaction that the multifaceted cooperation in various fields was increasing and underscored the significance of expanding bilateral trade and economic relations.

Congresswoman Lowey is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations and is Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Appropriations. She is also a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

The Members of Congress underscored the strategic importance of Pakistan-US relations. They expressed appreciation for the efforts being made for the socio-economic development of Pakistan.

The Members of Congress recognized the value of expanded bilateral economic relationship and conveyed support for measures to create economic opportunities for the people.

During the meeting Pakistan-US relations and matters of common interest, including Afghanistan, were discussed.

President Pervez Musharraf reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to fight extremism and terrorism. He stressed that members of Congress should play an important role in fostering better understanding of Pakistan’s strong efforts to fight extremism and terrorism and enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.

The members of Congress lauded Pakistan’s contribution to countering terrorism and extremism. They appreciated the bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation and conveyed that the US would continue to support Pakistan in these endeavors.

The President apprised the Congressional delegation of the comprehensive approach - combining military, political, administrative, and socio-economic aspects - being pursued by the government to effectively address the challenges of extremism and terrorism.

In this context, the President highlighted the importance of creating economic opportunities in the tribal areas and mentioned the Sustainable Development Plan for FATA.

President Musharraf stressed the vital stake Pakistan has in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. The President noted the measures taken by Pakistan to strengthen security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Members of Congress appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The President also apprised the Congressional delegation of the steps taken to promote sustainable democracy in the country.

He said that the government was committed to holding free and fair elections. The President also outlined the government’s actions to improve the access and quality of education at all levels as well as for the empowerment of women.

The other members of the Congressional delegation included: Congressman Ed Royce - member House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Financial Services; Congressman Adam Schiff - member, House Committee on Appropriations, House Judiciary Committee;

Congressman Steve Israel - member House Committee on Appropriations, House Committee on Armed Services;Congressman Ben Chandler - member House Committee on Appropriations, House Committee on Science and Technology; Congressman Tim Ryan - member House Committee on Appropriations; and Congressman Cliff Steams -member House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

During the meeting, Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri and the US Embassy’s Charge d’ Affaires, Peter W. Bodde were also present.