The United States is interested in improving bilateral trade and investment relations with Pakistan according to Vinay Chawla, deputy coordinator of Development and Assistance for the United States (US) Embassy in Islamabad.
In his address to the members of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), he said present US civilian assistance in Pakistan is focused on five areas: energy, economic growth, community stabilisation, education and health.
He said that the US government development budget for Pakistan is the second largest in the world, with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide $723 million in 2013.
Focusing particularly on Faisalabad, Chawla said the US is supporting Faisalabad Electric Supply Company to improve its operational performance through the US’s Power Distribution Program, which has added 900 MW to the power grid. Chawla also called for an upgrade of the Muzzaffargarh power plant.
Other regional successes include the introduction of a $14 million support program for dairy development in Punjab that plans to increase the milk yield and income of dairy farmers.
Finally, a new entrepreneurship program is also being started by the US, which will work in tandem with the FCCI.
Mian Zahid Aslam, President FCCI also spoke at the event, and though he appreciated the steps the US was taking, added the real issue was to improve bilateral trade. He said that while the US is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, trade volume is far below potential.
Aslam also said that a free trade agreement between Pakistan and US is extremely important. He said that US should review its trade policy towards Pakistan and consider cutting tariffs on Pakistani textiles. US tariffs disadvantage Pakistani textiles compared to those developing countries that benefit from US tariff-reducing preference programs. A reduction in US tariff rates would allow Pakistani businesses to increase their exports to the US.
Another area Aslam highlighted is the energy sector, where the US could invest in hydro electric power, construction of water storage facilities, and civil nuclear technology.
Focusing on the FCCI, he also suggested that USAID should launch further projects in Faisalabad so that businessmen can join with matching funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2013.