OUR STAFF REPORTER ISLAMABAD - The fifth edition of the US-Pakistan Trade and Investment Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting has started in Islamabad on Tuesday wherein detail discussions were held regarding Reconstruction Opportunities Zones Bill (ROZ) and ). Zafar Mahmood Commerce Secretary led the Pakistani side in the trade talks while Michael Delaney; Assistant US Trade Representative headed the US delegation. The meeting would continue on the second day (Wednesday) as well. Officials of Commerce Ministry told that detail discussion was held on Reconstruction Opportunities Zones Bill (ROZ) and to expand the bilateral trade. In his address Secretary Commerce, Zafar Mahmood hoped that ROZ programme would be implemented in near future, as the process is already much delayed. He further said that we were encouraged to know that the US is now prepared to re-engage in negotiations on BIT, as the US draft text for the treaty was going through a process of revision. It is our hope that this meeting will set the course for future negotiations and early finalisation of the treaty, he added. We are grateful to the US for support in arguing for the grant of a waiver by World Trade Organisation (WTO) to implement unilateral trade concession for Pakistan announced by the European Union. Obviously, it is still work in progress and we hope that the US will continue to use it influence in the ongoing process until the waiver is granted and the track is established, said Zafar Mahmood. He informed the participants of the meeting that United States continues to be our largest trading partner. Our bilateral trade has doubled over the last ten year to $5.30 billion. Pakistans exports to US increased by 17 per cent to reach $3.175 billion till 30th April 2011 as compared to last years corresponding period. It is expected that Pakistans total exports to USA would be around $4.2 billion during the last financial year. Pakistan has always enjoyed a healthy surplus in its exports to USA. This year the surplus is expected to be in excess of $ 2 billion. US had also historically been amongst the leading sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan. Close political relations and an enduring partnership on some key issues including those with global implications, have not translated to an economic partnership of the kind that the US has cultivated with some of its other key allies. We hope platforms like TIFA will play a most effective role in forging a closer economic partnership between the two countries. He also hoped that during this meeting we will manage to finalise a roadmap for setting up a private sector advisory panel under the TIFA framework as agreed during the last meeting in Washington in April 2010. It is an article of faith out here that there are no mangoes anywhere like the ones grown in Pakistan. We are grateful to the US government for giving our mangoes access to the US market to prove US consumers that indeed they are the best. However, the current requirement that mango is irradiated at the plant in Iowa, make commercial shipments in sizeable quantities, unviable. We hope the US government will review this requirement and allow pre-shipment irradiation in Pakistan. This is an imperative for commercially feasible shipments of the fruit to the US. Within the region, Secretary Commerce said we have embarked on a process of trade normalisation and liberalisation with all countries in our neighbourhood. Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) as you are aware, has been finalised. It is our hope that we would be able to extend this arrangement beyond the borders of Afghanistan, integrating Pakistans market, with all countries of Central Asia.