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ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has started consultations with other line ministries to finalize agenda for an inter-sessional meeting with the United States (U.S) on Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), scheduled on March 7-9, 2022, well informed sources in Board of Investment (BoI) told Business Recorder.

Presided over by Executive Director General (MoC) Aisha Makhdoom, during an inter-ministerial meeting concerns of different ministries and proposals were discussed which can possibly be made part of the agenda to be discussed with the US side.

Proposals of Pharma Sector: The EDG stated that one of the main agenda items in health sector is to develop institutional linkages with the US. In this regard, establishment of Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Pakistan has been pitched by Ministry of Health. In addition, certification of Pakistani Pharma Companies by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being proposed as it would enable the Pakistani companies to participate effectively in international tenders.

Representative from DRAP was requested to provide a concrete one-page brief on the proposal, which can then be shared with the US side during the upcoming inter-sessional meeting. DRAP was also requested to share the readiness of companies who can apply for certification from FDA.

Proposals from IT Sector: Representative of Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) stated that currently in IT Sector, 629%of their exports are to the US with most of the exports being done by people at their own initiative. It was emphasized that inbound and outbound delegations to and from the US are required, as different US States have their own economies.

The Executive Director General (EDG) requested to identify barriers/ bottlenecks in the US market faced by Pakistani companies/ individuals, and mention the sectors that Pakistan intends to target.

It was further added by representative of PSEB that Pakistani companies are not being taken seriously by the U. and that the US government may assist leading IT companies in reaching out to the chambers.

The EDG responded that the US government can only help in Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and similar arrangements. For private sector, the US side draws a line and states that they cannot interfere in the matters of private companies. However, the US side will be asked for visa facilitation for the delegation.

The EDG mentioned the Special Technology Zones (STZs) and inquired as to what incentives are being offered. Representative of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoIT&T) stated that the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) is under the Prime Minister’s office.

It was further pitched by PSEB that assistance may be sought in exchanging targeted delegations which may result in continued engagement with Pakistani Diaspora. Additionally, assistance maybe sought for inclusion of Pakistani companies on the vendor list.

PSEB also informed that a road-show in the US is being planned which will cover 3 to 4 states.

Assistance will be required in connecting them with the chambers. Details will be duly shared.

Proposals from Agricultural Sector: Representative of Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) apprised that the US has a good online system for animal health surveillance and disease reporting. Request for collaboration in this regard maybe put forth to the US side. It was also noted that a project was approved for meat export enhancement and for disease surveillance under the PSDP. Hence, Pakistan can seek technical expertise insight on the matter from the US.

It was also stated that support of the US may be requested in handling the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) disease in Pakistan. MNFS&R will be submitting a dossier to the World Organisation for Animal Health, formerly the Office International des Epizooties (OlE), and technical support in this regard would be welcome.

The US also wants to export beef to Pakistan but earlier its BSE disease status was questionable. While that status is clear now, the traceability of the origin of the meat continues to be a point of concern.

It was suggested that Pakistan may negotiate on this while asking for technical expertise for our BSE dossier.

The EDG stated that the export of beef is very much on US agenda. The US side is expected to raise it again.

Representative from Department of Plant Protection (DPP) stated that research is on-going regarding irradiation facility. The models of Australia and US are being studied. The facility will first need certification from atomic energy, and only then DPP’s role will begin.

EDG commented that Pakistan is stressing the need for an irradiation facility as it increases shelf life of the product. However, the nature of assistance required from the US side in this regard may be clearly communicated.

The EDG also emphasized that only those proposals may be shared where sufficient level of preparedness for technical assistance/ investment exists.

Investment Proposals: The EDG requested Board of Investment (BoI) to share proposals regarding investment in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Representative of BoI stated that they can share the briefs on opportunities available in the priority sectors. It was also clarified that the SEZs are open to all; however, country-specific access can be granted. The investment opportunity is open for multiple industries. The EDG requested BoI to share a working paper in this regard.

Representative of Ministry of Energy informed that they had shared proposals from the perspective of investment. One of them was regarding transmission and distribution while another project is on automated metering pilot project.

It was also informed that under the ARE (alternative and renewable energy) policy, ARE projects will be done via competitive bidding. The US side can be requested to participate in it.

EDG commented that the US has competency in environmental-friendly technologies and also in waste management. The US International Development Finance Corporation funds such projects. Hence, Ministry of Energy may provide the exact concise proposal so as to clarify what is required on both sides.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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