For Immediate Release: January 18, 2007
Contact: Jennifer Scoggins (202) 482-3809
U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT CELEBRATES AN AFGHAN ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL REVIVAL AT THE INTERNATIONAL RUG SHOW IN ATLANTA
The Visit Reinforces the Bush Administration’s Commitment to Helping Afghanistan Develop its Economy and Stronger U.S.-Afghan Commercial Ties
ATLANTA. – U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary David Sampson today welcomed a delegation of Afghan rug producers to the United States for a special showcase on Afghanistan’s economic and cultural revival at the AmericasMart International Rug Show in Atlanta, the largest wholesale marketplace of its kind in the world in Atlanta.
“The Commerce Department is committed to increasing bilateral business ties and stimulating trade and investment between our two countries, which we believe will lead to significant improvements in the welfare of the Afghan people,” said Deputy Secretary David Sampson. “A smart step towards this goal is to help Afghanistan export their impressive hand-woven rugs, among the cultural products they are known for around the world.”
AMERICASMART® ATLANTA is a leading international market source for a wide variety of consumer goods. It hosts 25 wholesale markets and six Market Wednesdays that annually attract more than 548,000 attendees from every U.S. state and 80 countries. This showcase is a result of a meeting in February 2006 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 U.S. commercial relationship with Afghanistan continues to expand. As of October 2003, two-way trade reached $376 million, a 51 percent increase over 2005. 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 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. In July 2006, the delegation visited the United States to learn about doing business in the textile industry. The delegation held 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 AIRTF continues 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. The Department will continue to facilitate U.S. – Afghan private sector linkages through missions to and from Afghanistan focusing on three priority sectors: rugs, fruits and nuts and mining.
Afghanistan is one of the leading manufactures of quality hand-woven 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 Afghan rug producers have had to overcome political upheaval, forced resettlement, a harsh climate and nomadic living conditions to produce the quality rugs that are rich in traditional colors and bold designs. The rug producers are among the most innovative, experienced and dependable in the word and many are from families with generations invested into the business.
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. Also, for more information about AmericasMart visit http://www.americasmart.com.
# # #