Washington: Pakistan wants to remove trade barriers and raise bilateral trade with the US rather than being the recipient of aid, says Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh. He has rejected the belief that the country has received billions in aid from the US.

The visiting Finance Minister said with the approach of enhancing trade ties, his country had already opened new areas in trade with the European Union, and wished to do the same with the US.

"We don't want to think of Pakistan as a country that is primarily attempting to simply get foreign assistance. No sir. We are saying: Let us have trade.

"Let us open our markets to each other, so that we can give an arrangement where the American businesses can flourish in Pakistan and our businesses can flourish here and it's good for everybody," Shaikh said at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

Shaikh said it was largely a "myth" that Pakistan has received tens of billions of dollars from the US under the Kerry Lugar bill.

"The truth is that in the Kerry-Lugar arrangement this year, we have not even received USD 300 million," he claimed, while adding that the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill was very important for the Pak-US economic relationship.

He said it was very important as a symbol of the US government's commitment to a new democratic government in Pakistan.

"I think that if it is disbursed in a proper way and configured in a proper way and implemented in a proper way, then it can have far-reaching consequences for the people of
Pakistan and in, you know, altering some of the misperceptions that are there," he said.

"But of course, in the larger scheme of things, one has to see how much impact something of that magnitude can have," the Minister said.

For having a lasting relationship and to break existing stereotypes, it was important to focus on trade, and barriers to trade have to be tackled, Shaikh said in response to a question.

He pointed out that a key feature of external assistance from the US has been its coinciding with wars --the Cold War, the Soviet-Afghan war and the so-called terror war -- and its ceasing once the wars are over.

"... this departure of the US from the region has had tragic consequences, at least in the last case," he noted.

"Now it seems like we're entering a new era, or we have entered a new era," he said. Shaikh said the pertinent question is why the US walked away in the past, and how to learn to put the relationship on a "sounder, more solid, more sustained footing which is not subject and vulnerable to shocks".

(Agencies)