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US, Pakistan review plan to expand trade, investment

Dawn, Pakistan

US, Pakistan review plan to expand trade, investment

By Anwar Iqbal

11 April 2014

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan have held initial discussions on a joint plan to expand trade and investment flows over the next five years, says a statement issued on Thursday.

“With the private sector leading the way, both sides will look at ways to implement ... and identify concrete steps in advancing the commercial relationship,” says the statement issued after a meeting of the US-Pakistan Economic and Finance Working Group in Washington on Wednesday.

The United States and Pakistan will hold more in-depth discussions about the joint plan at the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council meeting in May 2014. In the context of this joint plan, both sides agreed to continue engagement on a US-Pakistan Bilateral Investment Treaty and scheduling a third US-Pakistan Business Opportunities conference.

Federal Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar and US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth Catherine Novelli co-chaired the meeting of the working group. Mr Dar also met Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and discussed a range of strategic and economic issues.

The Economic and Finance Working Group is one of five working groups under the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, and provides a forum to build bilateral economic ties and advance Pakistan’s long-term economic growth and stability.

The working group discussed ways of moving forward the economic agenda agreed at a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October last year in Washington. The two sides also agreed to increase bilateral trade and investment flows over five years as part of their efforts to implement this agenda.

The two sides reviewed the status of US economic and development cooperation in Pakistan in the areas of energy, economic growth and agriculture, stabilisation, education, and health.

The State Department pointed out that projects funded by the United States would supply over 1,400 MW to the Pakistani power system by the end of 2014, enough to provide electricity to about 16 million people.

Under Secretary Novelli and Finance Minister Dar also highlighted the significance of USAID’s Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, a partnership between USAID and three private equity firms to invest in small and medium sized enterprises in Pakistan. The two sides looked forward to the rollout of these investment funds in the summer.

At a separate meeting with the finance minister, Deputy Secretary Burns particularly appreciated Pakistan’s entry into the international bond market and described it as a welcome sign demonstrating the growing confidence of the international community in the revival and resurgence of Pakistan’s economy.

Deputy Secretary Burns also appreciated the positive role and contributions made by Pakistan in facilitating a peaceful and smooth transition in Afghanistan. Both sides recognised that the recently held Afghan elections would pave the way for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political transition.