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United States-Afghanistan Joint Statement on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senior Representatives of the Governments of the United States and Afghanistan met at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington today. This was the fourth meeting of the United States-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Council, the implementing body of the U.S.-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Agreement (TIFA) that was signed by both countries in 2004.

Today's meeting demonstrates the continuing close cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States on economic, trade, and investment issues. It manifests the importance both countries place on strengthening a long-term relationship and strategic partnership that broadens the cooperation beyond military and security ties to programs that promote the private sector and economic development.

Over the long term solid economic, trade, and investment policies will create jobs, boost investment, and build sustainable development. The TIFA process also supports the objective of building closer people-to-people ties between both countries. The discussion built on issues discussed and commitments made at the May 6-7 U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral meetings in Washington, as well as the last U.S.-Afghanistan TIFA meeting in Kabul in October 2008.

The TIFA process has been a key part of a sustained and multi-faceted high-level engagement between both governments, focused on tackling major economic, trade, and investment challenges. The process is designed to guide and complement the practical work that officials from a wide range of agencies in both both governments carry out daily. At the same time, Afghanistan strongly encourage private sector input that highlights the challenges that businesses and investors face, so that the efforts are focused on practical solutions that effectively address these issues and help to create jobs and draw private investment. Strengthening cooperation is particularly important during this difficult global economic downturn.

The discussions covered five areas: 1) Investment climate issues, including bilateral trade issues; 2) Trade preference programs, including proposals to create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs); 3) South and Central Asia regional trade issues; 4) Progress on Afghanistan's accession to the World Trade Organization; and 5) Review of ongoing agricultural cooperation programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Agency for International Development, and ideas for expanding agricultural and microcredit cooperation.

The trade capacity-building discussion about Afghanistan's use of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Afghanistan and Pakistan ROZ legislation was useful. Economic development and in particular, creation of employment opportunities is critical for this region. It is hoped to improve the lives of Afghanistan's impoverished citizens and will reduce extremist attacks on U.S. and allied soldiers by providing trade-based sustainable development and working to stabilize the region.

The United States presented data on Pakistan's use of U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits, and the parties discussed how Afghanistan could better utilize those benefits. Both sides also emphasized the importance of beginning feasibility assessments of locations which have been identified for potential ROZs; such studies would also support Afghanistan's many infrastructure and economic development needs.

Afghanistan also actively participated in yesterday's U.S.-Central Asia TIFA meeting. The importance of improving trade among South Asian neighbors was discussed in more detail Afghanistan's role. Keeping in mind the continuing strong commitment of the United States to support Pakistan and Afghanistan, the parties also noted the need for Pakistan and Afghanistan to successfully conclude by the end of 2009 negotiation in the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) to replace the outdated agreement of 1965.

The parties also discussed a full range of investment climate issues. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation briefed the delegation on progress of its programs in Afghanistan and discussed areas for possible future cooperation.
The United States also congratulated Afghanistan on submission of its Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime (MFTR) to the World Trade Organization (WTO), an important step toward accession to the WTO, and the parties discussed next steps. The parties also support continuing technical assistance to help the Government of Afghanistan's relevant agencies to improve the standards of Afghan goods destined for world markets.

During the session on agriculture, they reviewed ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Agency for International Development programs in Afghanistan. They presentssuggestions for economic reforms to modernize the sector and improve productivity, and ways they might increase the level of agricultural trade with Afghanistan, its neighbors ,and between our countries.

In conclusion, the meeting provided an excellent review of key economic, trade, and investment issues, helped to focus the efforts to achieve priority goals, and allowed both countries to identify new areas for cooperation. With an overarching goal of providing a better quality of life for Afghan people, both countires strengthened thier commitment to work together to boost economic development and trade ties between thier countries.


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