LAHORE: US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome on Tuesday remarked that the Washington-Islamabad relationship had seen many ups and downs over the years, but now the two sides were at an inflection point, looking at a new era of bilateral relationship.
The ambassador shared these views during a reception hosted in his honour by the American Business Forum (ABF) at a local golf and country club.
Mr Blome also shared his views on the immense potential for Pakistan and the US to enhance trade and business, adding bilateral trade ties provided an advancement opportunity for both the economies. He said he was proud that the US was one of the biggest investors in Pakistan as well as its largest export market.
Beginning his address to leaders of the ABF member firms in attendance, the ambassador said on a lighter note he was excited to watch cricket on Wednesday (today). He further commented that the major US priorities were to build and extend the existing trade and investment relationship with Pakistan, and explore further potential.
Ambassador Blome says China provides ‘positive investment environment’
“There is significant trade of $9.9 billion between the two countries and it’s growing despite the obstacles. I understand there are policy inconsistencies, taxation issues and long legal procedures, but a prosperous and independent Pakistan is in US interests, and trade can be a part of that puzzle,” he underlined.
Some of the businessmen present shared a host of concerns with Ambassador Blome, ranging from the need for continuous engagement between Pakistan and the US, the bureaucratic delays firms faced here, Pakistan’s dwindling relevance for the US, enhancing the trade portfolio through joint ventures with the private sector, access to markets and finances for Pakistan’s private sector firms to transact in a meaningful manner, to direction of the Pak-US relations in bridging the alleged mistrust portrayed through the independent media.
“We have had a lot of opportunities to engage with the Pakistan government and it is ongoing. There are lots of vehicles and tools that support investment. Also, Pakistan sent the largest group of Fulbright students to the US this year,” the envoy responded.
Commenting on China attracting countries for trade, Mr Blome said Beijing made it attractive to invest in China, and provided a positive investment environment.
The ambassador was also requested to intervene in Pakistan-India ties for peace in the region, as well as the obstacles businesses faced in acquiring visas to the US.
Commenting on the latter, he admitted the visa issue was a “disaster”, but that they did prioritise students and other urgent needs and can also prioritise essential and important businesses. “It’s complicated and long and needs to be fixed. We are working through it. There is a huge focus on it. It was hard for us to even get visas to bring our personnel and officials here. We are confident that we’ll make progress in a few months,” he explained.
When asked what he thought the world would look like in five years, the ambassador remarked there was a need to build resilience in the face of unexpected events. “Focus has to be on developing indigenous capabilities and resilience, specifically in terms of climate change. Pakistan’s recent devastating floods will be followed by an excruciating drought, so it has to prepare for that, get its financial houses in order to get out of the debt cycles and budget crisis. I don’t see a stabilising picture (of the world) anytime soon with the war on Ukraine restricting commodity supplies, and China’s presence in the Pacific region,” Mr Blome said.
The US consul general in Lahore and the ABF president also spoke on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022