Senior trade officials of the governments of the United States, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan in an online meeting on Tuesday discussed range of trade matters.
Participants in the Council Meeting of the U.S. - Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) also considered issues related to digital trade among Central Asian countries and the U.S, noting that digitally enabled business services are essential to broad-based inclusive economic growth and innovation across economies, the officials said in a joint statement published by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
The officials agreed to focus on ensuring the free flow of information across borders. In the development of policies affecting digital trade, the participants agreed to prioritize broad stakeholder participation, including small and medium enterprises and women. The TIFA Council agreed to launch an additional working group on digital trade.
The meeting agenda also included topic on the lapse of duty-free treatment under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a trade waiver program that expired at the end of last year.
The U.S. officials also provided its counterparts with information on the key themes of the Biden Administration’s trade policy.
Officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan attended the TIFA meeting as observers, according to the statement.
The officials emphasized the importance of making further strides towards increased growth, prosperity, and stability through regional connectivity. In this regard, the participants welcomed the participation of Pakistan and Afghanistan at this meeting as an important opportunity to promote increased connectivity and trade between Central Asia and South Asia. They further appreciated Afghanistan and Pakistan’s interest in renegotiating the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010.
The meeting participants affirmed the TIFA “as a valuable mechanism to strengthen trade and investment ties” between the U.S. and the countries of Central Asia, and agreed to hold the next TIFA meeting in Central Asia region in 2022.