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January 14, 2018

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US urged to enhance trade, soften stance

US urged to enhance trade, soften stance

ISLAMABAD: Businessmen on Saturday called on the US to soften its unjustifiably hardened stance against Pakistan for the region’s peace, stability, economy, and especially to improve the almost stagnant mutual trade between the two countries.

“It would be in the interest of both the countries to enhance their trade volume which had been hovering around $5 billion for the last five years,” Iftikhar Ali Malik, founder chairman Pak-US Business Council (PUBC), said talking to a delegation of traders from SAARC member countries at his office.

“Pakistan is inevitable for peace in South Asia and any US policy that discounts us will not prove to be fruitful to stamp out terrorism.”

Malik who is also vice president SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), said the world especially the US under Trump administration should recognise the sacrifices of Pakistan in war against terrorism.

“Terrorism has claimed more than 740,00 people over the last 14 years and suffered economic losses worth over $123 billion, in addition to damaged road network,” Malik said.

He said the business community wants no confrontation with the US but only an independent foreign policy and strategy with regard of war on terrorism without anyone’s dictation.

“Pakistan is the only country that has been hosting the largest number of Afghan refugees for more than three decades,” the PUBC head said. Malik added the US administration instead of imposing restrictions on Pakistan should help Pakistan revive its economy so that it can fight terrorism more efficiently.

“We urge the government to prefer “trade not aid” policy and take measures to attract foreign investment from other countries including the US to strengthen economy,” he added.

Iftikhar further said Trump admin should recognise the sacrifices of Pakistan in the war on terror and the two countries should expand cooperation on "Joint Action Plan on Trade and Investment 2013" as the US was Pakistan’s largest export market and a source of foreign direct investment.

Last week, the US announced it was suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan until it takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network militant groups.

The decision, according to US state department, reflected the Trump administration’s frustration that Pakistan has not done 'more' against the two groups.

Economists say the US decision may influence the various multilateral agencies/creditors, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Asian Development Bank to close or limit their financial pledges for Pakistan.

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