ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is waiting for the new Indian government's response for holding talks for much criticised MFN/NDMA status for the neighbouring country, as Islamabad has completed its homework.

"We are ready and waiting for Indian government's indication for holding talks for Non-Discriminatory Market Access issue", said Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan while addressing a press conference here.

"The new Indian government has yet to assume charge and we will have to see who will be their commerce and textile minister", he said in reply to a question. The minister said there is no bar from Pakistani side on granting NDMA status to India, as we have completed our homework.

The government has changed the term Most Favoured Nation (MFN) to NDMA as the previous label had gathered much opposition to it. Earlier, Pakistan was ready to grant MFN/NDMA status to India in March this year but it delayed the decision to wait for the new Indian government for holding further talks.

Khurram said that Pakistan's exports to United States would double in next five years from existing $3.5 billion level. He informed that imports from US stand at around $1.8 billion at present. "There will be no sudden increase in exports to US. However, Pakistan will have to put its house in order to trade with the world."

Talking about Bilateral Investment Treaty with US, the minister said, “A delegation of commerce ministry would leave for Washington in next few months to hold talks with US trade experts on BIT. Later, the government will present its reservations to the US government “. On a question about Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, he said, "Pakistan is asking US government for its alternative, as Congress did not make any legislation on it.”

Earlier, the commerce minister informed the media on the recently concluded 7th round of United States-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). He also informed that Pakistan is holding talks with US on basis of 'Trade not Aid", as already announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Washington.

Khurram Dastgir informed that US and Pakistan have agreement on a Joint Action Plan to expand bilateral trade and investment flows over the next five years. He highlighted that areas of cooperation included in the Joint Action Plan are: diversifying agricultural production, enhancing intellectual property protection, implementing the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, engaging on Pakistan's accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, increasing trade in services, outreach to US State and Local Governments, promoting entrepreneurship and increasing dialogue between our respective private sectors.

The minister said both the governments would immediately begin work on implementing the Joint Action Plan. As noted in the JAT, the US and Pakistan established a bilateral working group to meet regularly to oversee implementation of the Plan and to monitor progress in specific areas, he added.

"At the TIFA Council Meeting, the US and Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Joint Efforts to Empower Women and to Promote Women's Entrepreneurship. This is a historic MoU that will provide a mechanism for discussion on how to help ensure that women participate fully in the economy and has access to economic, as well as trade and investment, opportunities".

Key elements of the MoU include exploring ways to: ensure strong interagency and inter-ministerial support for, and coordination of, policies and programs aimed at the economic empowerment of women; promote access to information about laws, regulations, policies, including information on international trade rules, requirements and preference programs; and address and remove the impediments that women and women entrepreneurs generally face. The US and Pakistan intend the MoU to be a standing item on the agenda for all future TIFAs and intend to begin discussions immediately on an implementation plan for it.

At the TIFA Council Meeting, both governments discussed market access opportunities and exchanged views on how to enhance those opportunities. On the margins of the TIFA Council Meeting, private sector representatives from the United States and Pakistan met to discuss trade and investment opportunities in the textiles and apparel sector, as well as in the information and the communications technologies sector.