WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan’s commerce minister said the United States and Pakistani trade and investment agencies are meeting for the first time in seven years at ministerial level to seek breakthroughs in agriculture and information technology.
Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar is scheduled to meet with US Trade Representative Catherine Tai and other senior US officials on Thursday under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the US and Pakistan.
Kamal told Reuters that the talks could strengthen ties between the two countries, strained by political tensions in recent years, and boost bilateral trade in goods and services.
“It’s important to start talking,” he said. “These were supposed to be annual meetings, but for some reason, they have been on the back burner for a long time. There are many areas where we hope to make some breakthroughs now that we have started, It’s on both sides.”
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The Thai office, which had the meeting on its public calendar, was not immediately available for comment.
Relations between once close allies Islamabad and Washington are only beginning to warm after years of frosty ties, largely due to concerns over Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies this support.
Qamar said Pakistan is looking to increase exports of mangoes to the US to facilitate increased trade in information technology and computer programming services. The US side was aiming to expand exports of beef and soybeans.
“When we talk about trade, we’re talking about the whole spectrum, but we’re focusing on these things because that’s where things start happening right away.
Pakistan also hoped to attract more US investment, particularly in IT and pharmaceuticals, after a long lull in which China became the dominant investor, he said.
“What we don’t want is for one country to have an open field. We want this to be an open competitive environment,” he said.
Pakistan, which was well positioned to help diversify the US supply chain, which relied on China before COVID-19, is starting to shift to suppliers in other regions. It could serve as a gateway to Central Asia, said Qamar.
(Reporting by Andrea Charal, Editing by Sonali Pohl)
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