US Secretary Commerce Wilbur Ross and Finance Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh hold talks on Wednesday.
US Secretary Commerce Wilbur Ross and Finance Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh hold talks on Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday underscored that US companies need to take full advantage of trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan.

Welcoming US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, PM Khan highlighted United States as Pakistan’s second largest trading partner with a significant investment footprint in the country.

Secretary Ross’s visit would help in realising the shared vision of Pakistan-US leadership in transforming the bilateral relationship into a broad-based, multifaceted and economic-centred partnership, a press release issued by the PM Media Office said.

The PM called for enhancing business-to-business cooperation between the two countries and highlighted the ‘ease of doing business’ in Pakistan.

Secretary Ross’s visit to Pakistan is a follow-up of the understanding between PM Khan and President Donald Trump on up-scaling Pakistan-US trade and investment ties several-folds.

In a tweet, Secretary Ross said, “It was an honor to meet with U.S. companies based in Pakistan and discuss ways the U.S. government can support improving prospects for their success. Protecting their interests and removing tariff and non-tariff barriers is a priority for the @realDonaldTrump Administration.”

Many US companies are desirous of enhancing their investments in Pakistan, especially in the energy sector, the US official said.

During a meeting with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood, the US official said America wants to play full part in the progress and development of Pakistan. He said Pakistan and the United States will have to collectively work to increase the volume of bilateral trade.

Mr Dawood told the visiting delegation that the government is now focusing on job creation and export augmentation by encouraging foreign investments. He took up the issue of early convening of the long awaited 9th session of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting as well as the visit of US business delegation to Pakistan to participate in the Business Opportunities Conference in order to forge a better networking among the private sectors of both countries.

The adviser also suggested that the US International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) should help in developing of new businesses in Pakistan.

Secretary Ross said that his visit to Pakistan is part of his government’s desire to increase trade relations with Pakistan. He also believed that such links would not only enhance bilateral trade but encourage further expansion of ties in all fields of economic engagement.

Regarding the IDFC assistance, he sounded positive and suggested that Ministry of Commerce should propose projects in this regard.

In a meeting with Secretary Ross, Minister for Energy, Omar Ayub Khan called for greater US investment in the energy sector including areas such as power generation, transmission and distribution, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, hydel energy and training opportunities.

The minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to cleaner fuels and green energy.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar briefed the visiting delegation on key actions taken to improve ease of doing business in Pakistan and how more US investments could be incremental in improving bilateral business relations. The two sides agreed to step up cooperation in the energy sector.

The US commerce secretary also met with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh who noted that the arrival of the delegation from the commerce sector is good news for Pakistan and would have positive consequences for the country.

“This is at a time when the government is looking forward to a major boost in exports after offering concessions to the export oriented sector of Pakistan,” Shaikh said.

He noted that Pakistan is trying to carve out a new progressive image in the comity of nations.

“We have tried to follow the FATF action plan to a significant level, opened our markets to the foreign investors by providing ease of doing business and we are trying to build our image as a tourism-friendly and investment-opportunity country in the region,” the adviser further said.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020