More trade to build a better future
WASHINGTON, Nov 30: It’s clear to both the US and Pakistan that trade, investment and private sector growth are the future of their relationship, argue the Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and a senior US official.
In a joint piece for the Foreign Policy blog on Friday, Mr Shaikh and US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides noted that the relationship had “weathered more than its fair share of crises over the years”.
But over the last few months, they had made real progress on issues critical to the interests of both of our countries,” they noted.
The meeting of the economic working group, which began at the State Department on Friday afternoon, focused especially on expanding economic relations.
“It is clear to us that trade, investment, and private sector growth are the future of the US-Pakistan relationship,” they wrote.
The two officials noted that the US remained the largest and most open economy to trade and investment in the world, and Pakistan was a large and emerging market with a growing class of entrepreneurs.
Two-way trade between Pakistan and the United States totalled nearly $5bn in 2011, spurred in part by the preferential access many Pakistani products enjoy under the US.
The US purchases nearly 20 per cent of Pakistan’s total exports — more than any other country in the world. Major US companies, such as Citicorp, Proctor & Gamble, Boeing, Pepsico, and Coca-Cola are already operating large and growing ventures in Pakistan.
The two officials also noted that US development assistance to Pakistan had broadened their economic ties, focusing on areas critical to economic growth — from energy to infrastructure, health to education.
US assistance was also helping alleviate severe electricity shortages in Pakistan, adding a total of 900MW to Pakistan’s grid by the end of next year. The US also has built more than 400 miles of roads since 2009 in Pakistan’s underdeveloped border regions, generating more business activity.
Pakistan benefits from one of the largest US government-sponsored people-to-people exchange programmes in the world, which includes scholarships, and university partnerships enabling thousands of Pakistani students to study in or visit the United States.
“This is making a difference in the lives of many Pakistanis, the two officials acknowledged.
Using this as a foundation for further improvement, the US and Pakistan have restarted a series of working groups to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues, including law enforcement, defence cooperation, economics and finance, and energy. These groups are designed to expand government-to-government discussions in the areas of our shared interests.
The US was also taking steps to empower Pakistani entrepreneurs, linking American investors and Pakistani entrepreneurs, providing Pakistani business leaders access to capital and mentoring resources.
“We believe that investing in Pakistan’s entrepreneurs is a smart business decision,” they wrote.
Both countries were also working to improve access to finance for growing companies, tapping the potential of the Pakistani market.
They were also expanding government-to-government dialogue to increasingly include the voices of businesses and civil society. That is why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the US-Pakistan Women’s Council in September with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. And the two governments also convened a business conference in London last month.
“The foundation for meaningful and sustainable bilateral cooperation rests in part on the shoulders of our private-sector leaders and entrepreneurs,” the two officials wrote.
“Challenges remain … but we will continue to develop the economic ties that will ultimately define our shared stability and prosperity,” they concluded.