ISLAMABAD: At the conclusion of the three-day Central Asian Business Opportunities Conference on Wednesday, some sixteen memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries to promote regional trade and investment as a means to facilitate economic growth in the region.
The United States demonstrated its support for Pakistan’s economic growth at the conference, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and co-hosted by Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce and the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), held in Islamabad from April 14 to 16.
The focus of the conference was on agricultural products, textile, leather, pharmaceutical and construction. The private sector also announced plans for increased intra-regional participation in trade fairs.
More than 250 private and public sector participants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan came together to seek new business opportunities and pursue greater regional coordination of trade and investment.
Addressing the importance of the conference in assisting businesses across Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and enhanced economic and trade relations, USAID Mission Director Gregory Gottlieb said, “This conference was another significant example of the United States’ efforts to enhance regional trade and economic integration, both within and outside the region.”
“The five Central Asian Republics, together with Afghanistan and Pakistan, have a market population of 289 million and a GDP of $594 billion. However, physical and other barriers to trade and investment prevent the region from realising its economic potential,” Gottlieb added.
Zubair Motiwala, the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, while addressing the closing session, acknowledged the achievements of the conference, saying, “Making regional trade successful is in the interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Opening doors to trade in the region will benefit traders in all the central Asian countries, resulting in economic growth in the whole region.”
The United States strongly supports Pakistan’s focus on expanding regional trade.
The United States has funded the construction and rehabilitation of more than 900 kilometers of roads and highways in Pakistan, including the four major trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The United States also supports the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, regional business networking events, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline, and the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) regional power transmission project.
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