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Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South and Central Asian Affairs Mara Burr concluded an eight-day visit to Afghanistan today. During the trip, she met with a wide range of Afghans, including government officials, female entrepreneurs, and members of civil society. She led the U.S. delegation for the United States-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting and made important progress towards Afghanistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in her meetings with senior Afghan officials.
On January 19, Ms. Burr and Afghan Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries Mozzamil Shinwari signed a bilateral agreement to take Afghanistan one step closer to WTO accession. The U.S.-Afghanistan agreement, which includes bilateral tariff schedules, will ensure market access for U.S. producers and also bring Afghanistan into the multilateral trading system. Of the agreement, Ms. Burr said, “This is an important step for Afghanistan to join the international community and the rules-based trading system. It allows the Afghan people and commercial sector access to opportunities they have not had before and will lead to predictability of trade and investment, which will only help expand the economy of Afghanistan and thereby provide benefits to the people for a better standard of living and a better future.”
The U.S.-Afghanistan TIFA, signed in 2004, has been the primary forum for bilateral trade and investment discussions between the two countries, including impediments to greater trade and investment flows between the two countries. The Council 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. They also discussed development of a work plan to implement their Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Efforts to Empower Women Entrepreneurs (signed in June 2013), trade promotion efforts, intellectual property rights, agriculture, and sector-specific investment challenges.
At the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ms. Burr is responsible for negotiating trade and economic policy issues for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iraq, Maldives, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Since 2009, the United States has supported Afghanistan’s efforts to join the WTO through a whole of government approach, encompassing the USTR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Embassy Kabul and USAID. "We look forward to the day when Afghanistan can sit at the table in Geneva as a full member of the WTO,” Ms. Burr said.