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Washington, D.C. – Senior officials from the Governments of the United States and Afghanistan met Wednesday 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 trade and investment issues including market access, Afghanistan’s efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of 2014, the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) regime, trade promotion efforts, joint efforts to improve the efficiency of transit of Afghan goods to export markets, intellectual property rights, agriculture, and sector-specific investment challenges.
This was the seventh 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 impediments to greater trade and investment flows between the Parties.
At the December 2011 TIFA Council Meeting in Kabul, the United States and Afghanistan agreed to establish four TIFA Working Groups: Women’s Economic Empowerment; Transparency and Public Participation; Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Outreach; and Customs. In the next few weeks the two governments will develop action plans for these Working Groups to pursue over the course of the next year. These TIFA Working Groups provide a basis for interagency and inter-ministerial teams to work together to address areas of mutual interest. The U.S. and Afghan delegations also agreed to work together to promote greater awareness of the U.S. GSP program and to increase Afghanistan’s exports of products eligible under the program.
Both governments also agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to memorialize their commitment to empower women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. In addition to the MOU, USTR and the Afghan Ministry of Commerce agreed to develop a Women’s Entrepreneurship Work Plan with specific goals and benchmarks for the next year and beyond. At the meeting, Afghan officials announced the preliminary approval of the mining law by the Afghan Cabinet on February 23, 2012. This is a positive step toward developing Afghanistan’s mining sector, and will hopefully serve as a catalyst for international investment. In addition, both delegations reviewed trade promotion efforts and agreed to continue collaborating on support for Afghan exhibitors to participate in major U.S. trade shows as well as outreach to communities in the United States to provide information on Afghan goods.
The Parties expressed their desire to reach agreement soon on dates for the next TIFA Council meeting, to be held in Kabul in 2014.