Senior officials from the United States and Afghanistan met today to continue their trade dialogue and evaluate progress under the United States-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The officials discussed a wide range of investment climate issues including supporting Afghanistan’s transition to a sustainable economy, market access, the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), trade promotion efforts, intellectual property rights, sector-specific investment challenges, and the New Silk Road vision. The New Silk Road envisions an international network of economic and transit connections. The New Silk Road will link and integrate Afghanistan with its neighbors and regional and global economies.
Today’s meeting marks the sixth meeting of the United States-Afghanistan TIFA Council. The U.S.-Afghanistan TIFA, signed in 2004, has been the primary forum for bilateral trade and investment discussions between the two countries. The TIFA process has been the focal point of a sustained and multi-faceted high-level engagement between the United States and Afghanistan on trade and investment issues, including addressing impediments to greater trade and investment flows between the Parties. U.S.-Afghanistan trade flows have witnessed significant increases since 2004. Exports from the U.S. to Afghanistan increased 1,333% from $150 million in 2004 to $2.2 billion in 2010. Imports from Afghanistan to the U.S. increased 243% from $25 million in 2004 to $85 million in 2010.
During the meeting, both governments agreed to work together on measures that will promote private sector engagement between the two countries and create legitimate, productive enterprises for the Afghan people. As part of that effort, the United States will work with the U.S. Congress to enact Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) legislation.
In addition, leaders from both countries reviewed trade promotion efforts and agreed to continue collaboration, including support for Afghan exhibitors to participate in major U.S. trade shows. The U.S. delegation expressed its support for a program to assist women-owned enterprises in all areas of the country and agreed to set up a working group under the TIFA to work on this issue. The U.S. and Afghan delegations agreed to work together to promote awareness of the U.S. GSP program, which seeks to support developing nations through increased exports.
In addition to the TIFA Council meeting, the U.S. delegation is also visiting the cities of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif during this trip to Afghanistan to meet with representatives from the Afghan private sector and women-owned businesses, and to visit Industrial Parks which house factories that produce food, marble, steel, and clothes, among other products. The two delegations will also meet with U.S. and Afghan companies to discuss their experiences as investors in the country and listen to their views about how best to improve the trade and investment climate in both the United States and Afghanistan.
The parties expressed their desire to reach agreement in the coming weeks on dates for the next TIFA Council meeting to be held in Washington in 2012.