For Immediate Release: July 17, 2006
U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT WELCOMES
Contact: Jennifer Scoggins (202) 482-3809
AFGHAN RUG DELEGATION
The Visit Reinforces the Bush Administration’s Commitment to Stronger Commercial Ties and
Economic Growth Between the U.S. and Afghanistan
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Commerce Department today welcomed the first-ever delegation of Afghan rug producers to the United States for meetings with government and business leaders on how Afghan rug makers can market and sell their unique hand-made rugs in the American market.
The visit is the result of a meeting early this year in Afghanistan with Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. The two officials emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership that is assisting Afghanistan in creating jobs and other economic opportunities. The Commerce Department’s Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force (AIRTF) has been working with the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on a broad range of commercial initiatives, one being the collaboration to select and host rug producers for this delegation.
“I am pleased to welcome the Afghan delegation as we foster mutually beneficial business partnerships. This is a win for U.S. and Afghan businesses and is just one of the ways we are strengthening ties between the people of our two countries,” said David Bohigian Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance and Chair of the AIRTF. “Afghanistan is making progress in overcoming two decades of war and instability. The new constitution provides new political freedoms that encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in the people of Afghanistan. Visits like this represent the continued commitment of the United States to help further Afghanistan’s economic development and bring peace, hope and prosperity to the Afghan people.”
The U.S. commercial relationship with Afghanistan continues to expand. Last year, two-way trade reached $330 million – 43 percent more than the previous year. As an element of this bilateral trade, Afghan rugs are allowed access to the American market duty free, creating opportunities that facilitate business partnerships. Hand woven rugs were designated as duty free under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program as part of a Presidential Proclamation in June 2005.
The Afghan rug producer delegation will be in the United States, through July 22. During that time they will visit Atlanta, GA., Washington, D.C., Newark, NJ. and New York, NY. The delegation will meet with importers, investors and private companies who will help coach and consult them on how to be successful in the American market.
The AIRTF will continue to work to expand cooperation by helping U.S. companies develop partnerships with Afghan entrepreneurs; supporting future Afghan delegations; attending U.S. trade events; and providing training and capacity-building for Afghan companies.
Afghanistan is one of the leading manufactures of quality handmade rugs in the world. Rug production once was one of the country’s biggest industries and, before 1978, Afghanistan’s rugs ranked fifth amongst the country’s exports. Today, Afghan rug producers continue to be among the most innovative, experienced and dependable in the world and the rugs have become a part of Afghanistan’s national identity. The indigenous Afghan carpet sector absorbs many influences and traditions from the surrounding countries, stretching from China to Morocco, to produce the unique, rich and diverse hand-made rugs.
Decades of war and instability in Afghanistan drove a great number of Afghans rug producers to Pakistan. Producers, who lived in refugee camps, continued to weave rugs and relied on rug production as their sole source of family income. Many Afghan rugs are finished in Pakistan and identified as Pakistani exports, hampering market recognition for Afghan rugs.
The Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force of the U.S. Department of Commerce serves as a resource of information for U.S. companies interested in rebuilding and investing in Afghanistan. The task force works closely with the U.S. embassy in Kabul, other U.S. government agencies, the Afghan Embassy, and international organizations to provide U.S. companies counseling on the latest developments and opportunities for rebuilding and investing in Afghanistan.
For more information about the delegation, visit www.afghancarpet2usa.com and for more information about the Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force, visit www.export.gov/afghanistan.
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