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Nawaz demands US free trade agreement

Express Tribune, Pakistan

Nawaz demands US free trade agreement

17 September 2010

ISLAMABAD: PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif urged Richard Holbrooke to support Pakistan’s efforts to finalize a Free Trade Agreement with the US and to encourage greater American investment in Pakistan, especially in its energy and power sectors, as these will have a direct bearing on the country’s economy.

Nawaz was speaking to Holbrooke after the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan called on him on Friday afternoon in Islamabad.

Sharif pointed out that aid packages were only stop-gap arrangements that have no lasting impact on the country’s economy. On the other hand, greater trade and foreign investment help in strengthening the country’s economy and generating employment opportunities, which reduce the likelihood of the youth turning towards militancy and extremism.

He also referred specifically to the need for the Obama Administration to finalize the understandings envisaged in the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, as well as for early approval by Congress of the legislation relating to the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones.

Nawaz Sharif also highlighted the need for early resumption of the dialogue process between Pakistan and India. In this context, he urged the Obama Administration to play a more effective role for the resolution of all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ambassador Holbrooke assured the former Prime Minister that the US viewed Pakistan as an extremely important country that deserved the help and assistance of the entire international community, in its efforts to confront militancy and to strengthen its economy. He reiterated that the Obama Administration and US congress were also committed, on a long term basis, to supporting Pakistan and developing its institutions.

He added that the US was also supportive of Pakistan’s efforts to normalize its relations with India. This was essential not only for peace and stability in the region, but for both countries to confront the many challenges they face. He appreciated that the former Prime Minister has been a strong advocate of cordial and cooperative relations between Pakistan and India.