WASHINGTON - Pakistan and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen bilateral partnership in a broad range of areas including energy, finance, economy and defence.

The agreement came when Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar met William J Burns, US Deputy Secretary of State in Washington at the State Department. Ambassador of Pakistan to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani accompanied the Finance Minister while Deputy Secretary Burns was assisted by Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman and other officials of the Department of State. Recognizing the constructive role of Pakistan-US strategic dialogue in strengthening bilateral partnership, both sides reaffirmed the shared interests in further promoting educational and research opportunities for Pakistani students, scholars, and researchers in the US institutions. The two sides recognized the need to establish a Working Group on Science, Technology and Education under the framework of Strategic Dialogue process.

During the meeting, Burns commended the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to bring stability and growth in the economy. He reaffirmed continued US support to Pakistan, especially in the economy and energy sectors.

The Finance Minister conveyed Pakistan’s deep concern over the continued unprovoked violations of the working boundary by the Indian security forces resulting in the deaths of civilians. He apprised the US side of the restraint shown by Pakistan and expressed the hope that the international community would encourage India to also exercise restraint. Dar also apprised the US side of the efforts underway in Pakistan to rehabilitate the people and reconstruct the areas affected by recent floods and the security operations. He informed the Deputy Secretary of State that the Plan of Action for rehabilitation and reconstruction under preparation will be shared with the international community soon.

Ishaq Dar stressed the need for a strong, durable and mutually beneficial economic relationship between Pakistan and the US. He also expressed satisfaction over the improved coordination and cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the energy sector. Dar also highlighted the need for exploring ways in which Pakistan could secure greater access to the US markets.

Meanwhile, Ishaq Dar met with Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli at Washington to discuss a range of strategic and economic issues. The two sides also convened the Economic and Finance Working Group of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to discuss Pakistan’s economic reform efforts, look at ways to increase bilateral trade and investment, and identify specific steps where innovation and technology could improve cooperation and Pakistan’s competitiveness in the global economy. During the Working Group meeting, the two sides discussed Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to bolster macroeconomic stability and growth.

Finance Minister discussed Pakistan’s energy reforms, enabling increased US investment in renewable energy. Specifically, Under Secretary Novelli highlighted USAID and OPIC support of the expansion of clean and renewable energy in Pakistan, and recent progress on two wind farms financed by OPIC. Both sides agreed to convene the next Energy Working Group in Pakistan in early 2015 in order to align the policy, assistance, and private sector engagement to support Pakistan’s energy reform efforts and power generation capacity.

The United States noted Pakistan’s progress toward its first LNG imports, groundbreaking on Dasu Dam, and continued distribution company reforms. Dar welcomed discussion of the Diamer Basha hydroelectric dam in an event organized by USAID, complementing other US-Pakistan energy cooperation efforts that will add 1400 megawatts to Pakistan’s grid by the end of this year.

Both sides noted progress on implementing Prime Minster Sharif and President Obama’s pledge to expand bilateral trade and investment over the next five years. Pakistan will host the next US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference in Islamabad in early 2015, and both countries will look at ways to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Pakistan is taking steps to improve its business climate and attract foreign investment. Both sides recognized recently completed trade agreements allowing Pakistani mangoes to enter the US market as well as an agreement for live US cattle imports to Pakistan. An information and communications technology trade delegation of Pakistani businesses, led by U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson and Pakistan’s Board of Investment Chairman Miftah Ismail, will travel to California next week. Both sides also agreed to convene an Education, Science, and Technology Working Group as the sixth working group under the Strategic Dialogue. Pakistan and the United States will continue academic exchanges that currently host nearly 5000 Pakistani fellows. Under Secretary Novelli noted that representatives from 17 US-Pakistani university partnerships will hold a conference in Denton, Texas next month. Under the US-Pakistan Science and Technology Agreement, Pakistan and the United States have together funded over 80 joint research projects on critical topics like food security, public health, and water.

Meanwhile, Ishaq Dar met EVP IFC Jin Yong Cai and his team and discussed IFC’s program portfolio in Pakistan. Cai appreciated the policies of the government and informed that IFC’s presence in Pakistan was 2nd biggest in the region. Cai elaborated that IFC is most actively involved in financial sector and was looking for investment in power sector. He said that IFC was investing $125 million in 3 Gorges Company for investment in South Asia which will finance quality projects in the region and Pakistan will especially benefit from it. He informed that IFC was closely examining the privatization of distribution companies and was interested to participate in the process.

Dar appreciated the interest of IFC in Pakistan and invited him to participate in financing of Diamir Basha Dam. Finance Minister informed him about the successful holding of Diamir Basha Dam Opportunities meeting. Cai said that he will do risk profiling of the project and inform the government about it. Talking about Trade CEO IFC assured Finance Minister Dar of his continued support towards initiation of $9 million program aimed at improving the labor standards in Pakistan, to bring them in line with the international requirements/ standards. This would in turn give a positive boost to the textile industry of Pakistan with respect to its exports. He spoke of a Buyers Forum being organized in Islamabad in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan towards the end of the current year. IFC further committed to support Pakistan at all relevant forums towards the creation of an improved business and investment climate.