NEW YORK: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday sought preferential trade access to the US market to boost bilateral trade between Pakistan and United States.
“We seek preferential trade access to the US market so that Pakistan and US businesses get a fair chance of doing business with each other. Such an arrangement is necessary to boost bilateral trade,” the Prime Minister said while speaking at a luncheon co-hosted by the US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) and the US Chamber of Commerce.
He expressed the hope that the US Chamber of Commerce and the USPBC will play their role in bringing the two countries closer on this and in convincing the US administration and Congress for its need.
“This will go a long way in strengthening the relationship between the two countries, their people and
businesses,” he added.
The Prime Minister said he firmly believed that a strong trade and economic relationship was an essential pre-requisite for a stable, long term people to people relations.
The United States has remained an important economic and trading partner of Pakistan, he said, adding, this partnership has been beneficial for private businesses of both countries and instrumental in fostering growth in Pakistan.
“However, the level of trade and investment between the two countries has not kept pace with global trends,” he said and mentioned that recognizing this, both President Obama and he agreed in their meeting in October 2013 to jointly work on developing a Joint Action Plan to expand bilateral trade and
investment flows over the next five years.
“I see tremendous potential to deepen trade, economic and investment cooperation between our two countries. Your role as business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs is critical in enabling our two governments to fully harness the potential,” he added.
The Prime Minister said turning around the economy, overcoming the energy crisis, combating extremism and terrorism and investing in education have been the key priorities of his government ever since assuming office in June 2013.
“I am, therefore, particularly pleased to share with you the details of the progress achieved by Pakistan,” he added.
The Prime Minister said as a result of bold economic reforms, his Government had achieved significant improvement in all major economic indicators. Pakistan’s growth has increased and the budget deficit has been reduced, he added.
He said with a young and vibrant population of 200 million, growing consumer demand, as well as a stable economy and improved security, Pakistan offered enormous opportunities for profitable investment and trade.
Giving an overview of some of the key economic indicators in Pakistan, the Prime Minister said inflation is now well below 3% – the lowest in 47 years.
The State Bank of Pakistan in its Monetary Policy Decision announced in May 2016 decreased the discount rate to 5.75% – again lowest in last 4 decades, he added.
The Prime Minister said up-gradation of the Karachi Stock Exchange to Emerging Market Index by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) was an important development.
“Pakistan’s economy is back on an upward growth trajectory and FY 2015-16 saw growth of 4.71%, the highest in a decade. There has also been a successful revival and resumption of the strategic private sector participation program,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the government has also successfully auctioned 3G and 4G spectrum licenses, opening vistas of communication and data transfer in the country.
Pakistan will shortly graduate from the IMF Programme. The successful completion of the IMF programme, the second time in our history, is a strong indicator of the health of Pakistan’s economy and the authenticity of reforms undertaken, he added.
The Prime Minister said the Tax to GDP ratio has gone up to 12.5% which is up from 9% when the government took reins of the economy. “There is potential for further growth which we are committed to tap,” he added.
He said the Karachi Stock Exchange being one of the best performing Stock Markets in the world closed Financial Year at 37,783 points. “It is now trading well over 40,500 points,” he added.
The Prime Minister said, “Forbes has acknowledged that Pakistan has the potential to be a global turnaround story and ought to be a US strategic partner.”
“Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs has included Pakistan in N-11 or Next 11 Group of economies expected to register rapid growth in the next decade.”
He said, Bloomberg ranked Pakistan: (a) 3rd amongst top ten Best Performing Markets in 2014; and (b) 14th amongst top potential investment locations in 2016.
The Prime Minister said the well reputed international credit rating agencies, international financial institutions, and international economists have all appreciated the important strides we have made over the past three and a half years in turning around Pakistan’s economy.
Both S&P and Moody’s have upgraded Pakistan’s credit rating from stable to positive. Fitch has also assigned a stable rating to Pakistan, he added.
“Our economic rebound is particularly remarkable because we achieved it while being engaged in major counter-terrorism operations that we have launched against terrorists across Pakistan. Thankfully, we have been able to restore the writ of the State and reclaim every inch of our territory,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the improved security environment in Pakistan has already generated enhanced
investor interest and enthusiasm.
“Another challenge we faced was the energy shortage in Pakistan. Happily, on account of the comprehensive strategy adopted by the Government, energy supply, at least for the industry, is much better than before and will improve further, as we operationalise key power projects in the pipeline.”
“There are no power outages for the industrial sector for the last 12 months and we are well on course to eliminate all kinds of power shortages by end of 2017,” he added.
The Prime Minister said being a firm believer in the private sector’s pivotal role in the economic development of Pakistan, his government has framed policies aimed at providing an enabling environment for private, local and foreign businesses to thrive.
“Already the Investment Policy 2013 provides one of the most liberal investment regimes in the region, allowing 100% foreign ownership with emphasis on reducing costs and processes involved in “Doing business” and creating linkages for trade and industry.
“We also have numerous attractive investment opportunities in the Power, Oil & Gas, Information Technology, Infrastructure, Consumer Goods, Financial Services and Capital Markets sectors in Pakistan,” he added.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan’s entry into the global bond market and the subscription it generated and the outstanding performance of Pakistan Stock Exchange pointed to investor friendly policies and growing investor confidence in Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif said he was delighted to join the US business and industry leaders here this afternoon at the luncheon co-hosted by the US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) and the US Chamber of Commerce.
The US Chamber, one of the oldest in the world and the USPBC have both historically played a key role in forging commercial and economic ties between Pakistan and the United States, he added.
“Not surprisingly, therefore, interaction with the US business leaders under the auspices of USPBC has become a permanent feature of all my visits to the US. I always find our exchanges very useful and enriching,” the Prime Minister maintained. – APP