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Pakistan, US meeting in April under TIFA

Dawn, Karachi
10 February 2004

Pakistan, US meeting in April under TIFA

By Ihtasham ul Haque

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: Pakistan and the United States will hold in early April their first bilateral meeting in Washington under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) signed last year to increase commercial cooperation between the two countries.

A senior official of the ministry of commerce told Dawn here on Monday that while Pakistan was expecting increased trade relations with the United States, efforts would be made to prospect for sizable American investment during the forthcoming meeting.

Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan is expected to lead a delegation to the US which would also include officials of the ministry of finance, economic affairs division and the Central Board of Revenue.

Issues relating to the decisions of the US Overseas Private Insurance Corporation (OPIC) and US Exim Bank to facilitate American investment in Pakistan would be finalized during the meeting.

The US Import and Export Bank had previously announced that it was ready to make available substantial lending to the American investors to make new investment in Pakistan. Similarly, OPIC had assured to provide insurance cover to US investors. However, there was little progress over the issue.

Before the TIFA meting Unites States Trade Representative Mr Zoellick will be visiting Pakistan on February 15 to discuss bilateral matters and issues relating to the World Trade Organization.

"Pakistan is well positioned to benefit from the future WTO negotiations," the official said, adding, Islamabad which had participated in "green room negotiations" last year, would also be invited for the next WTO meeting likely to be held next month in Hong Kong.

He explained that only important members of the WTO were invited for green room negotiations to try to reach an agreement after the failure of Cancun round of talks. Responding to a question, the official said there had been difficulties in attracting US investment in the past and one of the reasons was the cost of doing business in Pakistan was relatively high.

Nevertheless, he said that things had improved due to lower interest rates and tariffs rationalization. "But there is no doubt that electricity charges are still high and serve as a hurdle in the way of meaningful foreign investment in Pakistan," he said.
The official said that since front loading payments to the IPPs were coming to an end, Wapda would be in a position in next the few years’ time to offer cheap electricity which would certainly serve as an effective incentive for boosting both local and foreign investment. "Moreover Wapda is working on bulk power rates and off-peak hour rates. This would help the investors," he said.