Pak-US trade talks: We deserve more trade, Pakistan tells US

Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood asks US for more generous economic ties due to key ally status.

Shahbaz Rana September 21, 2011


Pakistan has complained of “unfair” treatment in economic matters by the US during talks here on Tuesday. Islamabad expressed frustration that bilateral trade relations are not commensurate with the role Pakistan has played in the war against terrorism.

The first day of meetings of the US-Pakistan Trade and Investment Council (TIFA), which is the fifth to happen, also saw Pakistan urge the US to afford the same opportunities and benefits it has extended to other countries.

In a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan’s military cooperation with the US, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood said: “Close political relations and an enduring partnership on some key issues, including those with global implications, have not translated into an economic partnership of the kind that the US has cultivated with some of its other key allies”.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, Pakistan has suffered losses worth over $68 billion during the past decade as a result of the war on terror. Within the same period, the US has given Pakistan approximately $13 billion in assistance.

Mahmood said that platforms like TIFA could play a highly effective role in forging a closer economic partnership between the two countries, while asserting that some issues have ruffled feathers in Islamabad, such as the US not providing duty-free access to certain Pakistani products in its markets.

In his opening speech he highlighted the need to implement the long-promised and much-delayed Reconstruction Opportunity Zones program. The US had proposed to set clusters of trade along the Pak-Afghan border to create employment opportunities. The plan was for the goods produced in these zones to be exported to the US duty free. However, the programme never materialised and the legislation eventually lapsed in the US Senate.

Mahmood said Pakistan hoped that a fundamentally improved programme that fully serves its underlying objectives will be implemented in the not too distant future.

He said that negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty have been going on for quite a number of years now, but Pakistan still seeks US investment in the energy sector. The process has temporarily stalled as the US draft text for the treaty was being revised, leading Pakistan to ask the US if and when renegotiations might occur.

Pakistan also sought a relaxation of regulations on mango exports to the US. Currently, mangoes must be irradiated at a plant in Iowa. Mahmood said this made commercial shipments in sizeable quantities unviable. He urged Washington to review this requirement and allow pre-shipment irradiation in Pakistan.

The United States continues to be Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade has doubled over the last ten years to $5.3 billion per year.

Pakistan is eager to access US markets and finalise the Bilateral Investment Treaty. This includes the road map for setting up a private sector advisory panel under the TIFA framework, as agreed during the last meeting in Washington in April 2010.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.


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Mirza | 9 years ago | Reply

@Waqas: @John B: @vickram: I have eaten mangos in Pakistan and India. They were close but no cigar. The Desi mangos (both Pakistani and Indian) in Canada were always overripe and not worth any price. Mangos are sensitive to weather and cannot be shipped long distances and left at the retailer’s for additional time. Mangos that come from close by are a better deal for the money. More important is the fact that mangos would never become commercial success for American taste. Even I do not miss mangos and my kids when offered mangos say “do we have to eat it”? In over three decades I have not seen mangos gaining any popularity except the increasing population of Asian immigrants who still like them. What I am trying to say is selling mangos to the US is not going to make Pakistan rich. The most popular fruits in the US like banana or apple are easy to eat and available thought the year not just for a short time. Sorry to be impartial and sharing my true feelings. Thanks and regards, Mirza

vickram | 9 years ago | Reply


Have you eaten indian mangoes? They are the sweetest. In India, we have some 70 varieties !!!

Have you heard about Banganapalle mango? It has thin skin and each ripe fruit can weigh 200 to 500 grams. The fruit flesh is so thick that it can be sliced like pieces of halwa and they taste sweet like halwa too. Alphonso is smaller and called the king of fruits because its juice is like nectar. Langda, this is eaten, from the bottom, making a hole in the peel and the pulp is squeezed and sucked in. Some mangoes are soo good that some prefer to eat them raw, with salt. Pickles made of such green mangoes ....are best accompaniments for aloo parathas and people tend to eat more with mango pickle!

I have eaten sweet pakistani mangoes in Dubai, but, i think, the variety of mangoes available in india to suit all palates is just awesome !! So, don't think that only Pakistani mangoes are good, the indian ones are as good...if not better !!!

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