Chicago : Foreign Minister Khsurshid Kasuri, highlighting Pakistanâ€™s tremendous economic potential and its key strategic location to serve as regional hub of trade and economic activity, encouraged American entrepreneurs to take advantage of the vast business opportunities existing in the country on the back of its sustained high growth.
Addressing a gathering of corporate leaders at the World Trade Center in Chicago, the foreign minister apprised them of an attractive business climate and liberal investment policies that saw the country pull in a record foreign direct investment of US dollars six billion last year, signaling international investorsâ€™ firm confidence in Pakistanâ€™s tremendous growth prospects.
The foreign minister informed the gathering that more than 60 American companies are operating in Pakistan and posting handsome profits. He listed diverse sectors of economy including oil and gas, mining and energy, IT and telecom, tourism and hotel industry, real estate and infrastructure development as presenting enormous opportunities.
Khurshid Kasuri also referred to the fact that Pakistan-US bilateral trade has boosted rapidly in the last few years. Pakistanâ€™s exports to the United States have swelled to $ 3.66 billion in 2005-06 from $ 2 billion in 2001 and likewise the countryâ€™s imports from the US have increased to $ 1.6 billion in 2005-06 from $ 565 million 2001.
â€œPakistanâ€™s economic relations with the United States are of central importance to us and the United States is Pakistanâ€™s largest trading partner.â€?
The two countries, he said, signed a trade and investment framework in 2003 and have a mechanism in place to promote economic cooperation. The EXIM Bank is a major partner in guaranteeing air fleet replenishment from Boeing for Pakistanâ€™s national airlines and is willing to offer similar support in other areas. Overseas Employment National Corporation is increasing its activities in Pakistan. Pakistan has also established an organization to protect intellectual property rights.
He said Pakistan has proposed to the US government that the two countries should begin negotiations for a free trade agreement.
It is believe that the conclusion of such an agreement would bolster Pakistan-US trade substantially and provide a win-win environment for businessmen of both countries including those form textile. He said accelerated economic growth and the opportunities that have been unleashed have created an enabling environment for expanding investment and trade between the two countries.
Drawing American investorsâ€™ attention to the countryâ€™s ranking in the top ten reforms in 2006 World Bank Report of Doing Business and its inclusion in the club of next level by Goldman and Saches, he said Pakistan has become investorsâ€™ destination by choice due to very liberal investment policies that allow repatriation of capital, royalty and dividends and 100 per cent equity participation.
Speaking in the context of Pakistanâ€™s upbeat economic scenario he informed the gathering that the national economy has grown at an average growth of 7 per cent during the last five years, positioning itself as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.
This strong growth momentum is underpinned by broad-based comprehensive structural reforms, dynamism in industry, agriculture and services sectors. He observed that despite shock of soaring oil prices putting constraints on the countryâ€™s trade balance as well as the staggering 2005 earthquake, Pakistanâ€™s economy continues to demonstrate resilience and is again expected to follow high growth trajectory next year also.
The foreign minister said driven by policy of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization Pakistan is fast moving towards market economy. The trade volume has shot up to 41.4 billion in 2005-06 from US $ 17.8 billion dollars in 1999 and is likely to rise further this year.
He said the countryâ€™s foreign exchange reserves have increased manifold in the last five years, covering seven months of imports and the public debt has also declined significantly in terms of GDP percentage.
Referring to decreasing poverty, declining unemployment, rising income level, demographic advantages and a growing middle class, he said the strategically located country of 160 million people has the confidence of four vital sub regions of Asia — the Gulf, Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia.
â€œWith the operationalization of Gwadar, Pakistan has positioned itself as economic hub of the region, providing multiple corridors for trade, transportation, energy and tourism to benefit from potential of Central Asia, Western China and rapidly progressing South Asia.â€?
He also counted the advantage of having a skilled but inexpensive workforce in Pakistan and added that no corporate sector with a view for future can afford to ignore the vast economic potential.
Chairman and CEO of World Trade Center Neil Hartigan welcomed the foreign minister and expressed appreciation for the economic strides Pakistan has made in recent years.
Kim Malishenjo, Vice President Boeing lauded Pakistanâ€™s economic development in the last several years. Earlier, the foreign minister also visited Board of Trade Chicago where its director briefed him.