Pakistan’s robust economic growth lauded at NY business moot

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Speakers at an event marking the opening of a major conference aimed at building linkages between US and Pakistani businesses expressed the hope Thursday evening that their interaction would open up more opportunities to further strengthen trade and investment relations between the two countries.

At a networking session for the 4th US Business Opportunities Conference, the first to be held in the United States, the speakers applauded the Pakistan government’s efforts to restore economic stability, saying its reforms had improved the attractiveness of the country to investors.

The previous conferences took place in London, Dubai and Islamabad.

About 300 industry representatives, investors, and government leaders from the two countries as well as emerging professionals and entrepreneurs were present at the event held at CitiCorp Headquarters in New York.

Among those who spoke at the session were: Mehmood Khan, chairman of the US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC), Bob Dechant, chief executive officer, IBEX Global, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani, and Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

According to officials, the 2016 conference will highlight business opportunities for US and Pakistani businesses, with particular focus on fashion apparel, healthcare, information communication technology and agriculture.

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, who is leading the Pakistan delegation, will be addressing the main session of the conference on its second day on Friday.

The US delegation is led by Commerce Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and besides EXIM Bank’s chairman, includes US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, USAID Assistant to the Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Larry Sampler, and US Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider. General Electric Vice Chairman John Rice will also deliver a keynote speech.

Speaking at the session, the Pakistani ambassador told the gathering that “Pakistan today is brimming with the true promise of a mega country”. “It is a promise fueled by expectation of sustaining high growth rates that would translate into enhanced purchasing power for an expanding middle class,” ambassador Jilani said.

“It is the promise of an emerging market that has been ranked among the top,” he said, pointing to improving economic indicators that have been recognised by international rating agencies.

Jilani said that that promise had also been recognised at the highest level by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“Most significantly, this promise has been acknowledged and embodied in the $46 billion CPEC—underwritten by China being one of the most salient business savvy states,” he said.

Export-Import Bank Chairman Hochberg, who visited Pakistan in April, said he was impressed by the economic turnaround in the country, adding that a number of projects were under consideration for financing purposes.

He said that strengthening trade and commercial links were the best way to ease diplomatic and political tensions between the two countries.

In a welcome address, US-Pakistan Business Council Chairman Mehmood Khan said that members of his group were “bullish about business prospects in Pakistan”.

He said that the overwhelming response to this year’s conference showed that companies in both countries were eyeing opportunities to grow US-Pakistan trade and investment.

“The business community strongly supports a reinvigorated US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and applauds the shared commitment of both governments to expand and deepen bilateral economic, trade, and investment cooperation,” Khan added.

The speakers at the event praised the April 2016 launch of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII), a partnership between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and three private equity fund managers to provide capital to small and medium-sized businesses in Pakistan.

Under the PPII, the USAID has partnered with the Abraaj Group, Indus Basin Holdings and JS Private Equity Management to develop three privately-managed investment funds that are seeded with US government money and matched at least one-to-one with privately raised capital.

In the coming years, PPII funds will collectively invest over $150 million in capital to help Pakistani businesses grow and create jobs. All three have achieved first financial close and are now making investments in Pakistan.

 

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