ISLAMABAD -- Trade between the United States and Pakistan has reached a record high, according to the US embassy in Islamabad.
Although the final figures for fiscal year (FY) 2017 (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017) have not yet been calculated, trade between the two countries is estimated to have reached more than $6 billion (Rs. 663 billion), an embassy official told Pakistan Forward on condition of anonymity.
The previous record was $5.81 billion (Rs. 642 billion) in FY 2011, he said.
In FY 2017, Pakistan exported goods worth $3.5 billion (Rs. 387 billion) to the United States, according to data from the State Bank of Pakistan. Pakistani imports from the United States amounted to almost $2.6 billion (Rs. 282 billion).
Trade between the two countries therefore exceeded $6 billion, with almost $1 billion (Rs. 110 billion) in trade surplus for Pakistan despite stagnation in overall exports.
Compared to FY 2016, trade between Pakistan and the United States grew by $780 million (Rs. 86.3 billion) in FY 17.
Pakistan's major exports to the United States are sporting goods, surgical goods, leather and finished leather products, textiles, cotton yarn, garments, carpets, and rice. Pakistan's main imports from the United States are electrical machinery, equipment, medicines, dry fruit, perfumes, coffee and other food items.
'A good development'
Economists view the increase in trade between the two countries as a positive step and say it has room to grow.
"It is a good development that trade between Pakistan and America has exceeded $6 billion," said Shujaat Mubarak, an economist, television anchor and dean of the business studies department of Muhammad Ali Jinnah University in Karachi.
To further promote mutual trade, Pakistan and the United States should sign long-term trade agreements, he said, adding that the United States has an interest in a stronger Pakistani economy because of Pakistan's importance in the region.
"Pakistan's overall exports remained stagnant in FY 2017 in relation to FY 2016 and amounted to $21.93 billion [Rs. 2.4 trillion], but it seems a good development that Pak-US mutual trade moved forward last year," Murtaza Mughal, president of the Pakistan Economy Watch, an Islamabad-based think tank, told Pakistan Forward.
The United States is one of the leading trade partners of Pakistan and among the few countries with which Pakistan has a trade surplus each year, he said.
Boosting further trade
Mughal urged officials from both countries to work out strategies to enhance trade in the years ahead.
Pakistan and the United States should sign a Preferential Trade Agreement with the goal of boosting their trade to about $10 billion (Rs. 1.1 trillion) during the next two years, he said.
Pakistan has already signed free trade agreements and investment pacts with various trade partners and such arrangements could be reached with the United States, he said.
"The United States must give concessions to Pakistan on textile exports in order to further strengthen [their] trade ties," Ashfaque Khan, an economist and dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, told Pakistan Forward.
He pointed out that the United States has given special concessions to Bangladesh on textile exports, while the European Union has had special agreements with Pakistan since 2013.
Both Pakistan and the United States must find avenues to enhance mutual trade in the future, Khan said.