IT is encouraging that as a follow up of the understanding between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump, on up-scaling Pak-US trade and investment ties several-folds, the two countries are holding negotiations to realize the objective. Though the just concluded visit of the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross did not result in any breakthrough in trade promotion but it did afford an opportunity to exchange fruitful ideas for the purpose.
The United States is the second largest trading partner of Pakistan, therefore, has been playing a significant role in the economic development of the country. In recent years, it provided valuable assistance in overcoming the crippling shortage of energy and the projects completed with the US cooperation are playing a crucial role in ensuring power security. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and the United States stood at $6.54 during 2019 and Pakistan had a $1.3 billion trade surplus with Washington. However, it may be pointed out that the trade is mostly confined to textile and leather goods and medical instruments, which means there are bright prospects for diversification if the United States adopts a more liberal approach towards Pakistan. According to reports, during parleys with the US trade delegation, Pakistan demanded expansion of GSP Plus list for providing concession on export items from the US side, movement towards TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) and initiation of Scoping Study for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but the United States was non-committal. This has made some commentators to believe that the visit was just aimed at consoling Pakistan at a time when President Donald Trump was offering incentives and technologies to India during his much-trumpeted tour. Pakistan justifiably expects some forward movement on meaningful increase in bilateral trade following clear progress made by Islamabad on meeting FATF requirements and its sincere cooperation in facilitating peace talks with Taliban.