U.S. Trade Representative Michael B. Froman and Pakistan Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan co-hosted the 8th annual U.S.-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting on October 18, 2016, in Islamabad, Pakistan.Reiterating October 2015 statements by Prime Minister Sharif and President Barack Obama, the two sides emphasized that the United States and Pakistan remain committed to working together and with the private sector to expand bilateral trade and investment ties, as part of an enduring, multifaceted bilateral relationship. This, they noted, was in the interest of both countries and our respective business communities. As in the October 2015 statement, USTR Froman commended Pakistan on its progress in implementing an economic reform program that has stabilized Pakistan’s economy, and pledged continued U.S. cooperation on Pakistan’s reform and business climate agenda going forward.
Important outcomes of this TIFA Council meeting included: renewed outreach on the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program to Pakistani exporters; a commitment to jointly lead a high-level trade agricultural delegation from Pakistan to the United States in 2017, as well as facilitate over 20 additional Pakistani delegations to U.S. trade shows; improved Pakistan government dialogue with foreign pharmaceutical firms, especially concerning the business environment; US facilitation of improved awareness of the process for bidding on U.S. Department of Defense procurements that support U.S. operations in Afghanistan ;identifying a phyto-sanitary irradiation facility in northeastern United States for Pakistani mango imports; and progress on scheduling the next U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference. The TIFA Council meeting also included discussion of investment climate issues, consultations on agricultural imports and exports, and clarification of Pakistani tax and tariffs policy including the phase-out of Statutory Regulatory Orders, which affect imports. Pakistan renewed its request for better U.S. market access, especially for its apparel industry, and noted concerns about language in the U.S. Department of States’ travel warning on Pakistan and its impact on trade. The United States hosted a GSP outreach event with Pakistan business associations immediately following the TIFA Council meeting to increase awareness of the U.S. GSP program among Pakistani exporters.
More broadly, the TIFA Council meetings encompassed a wide agenda related to market access and proposals to increase bilateral trade and investment. The two delegations finalized the 2016-2017 work plan of the 5-year Augmented Joint Action Plan to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment (announced during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his meeting with President Obama in late 2015).Continued implementation of this work plan will comprise the bulk of the TIFA Council’s work over the next twelve months.
Both sides reaffirmed their recognition of the strong bilateral, mutually advantageous economic ties and committed to strengthen those ties. They also agreed to convene the next TIFA Council meeting in the United States in 2017. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is the premier bilateral engagement for strengthening U.S.-Pakistan trade and investment relations. Since the launch of the TIFA (in 2003), U.S.-Pakistan bilateral trade has grown by over 50 percent.The United States is Pakistan’s largest country export destination and one of its largest sources of foreign direct investment.