Third Pak-US Business Opportunities Conference started in Islamabad. Federal Minister for Commerce, Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar and US Secretary of Commerce attended the inaugural session of the Conference.
In his welcome speech Federal Minister Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Commerce, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said that the Ministry of Commerce is making plans to make export sector as an engine of growth, enhance Pakistan’s export competitiveness in short as well as long term and increase Pakistan’s cumulative exports. To achieve these goals the Government is bringing regulatory amendments in the trade regulations, strengthening institutions, improving governance and introducing measures to enhance export competitiveness, he said.
The Minister said that Pakistan is leading several strategic initiatives to build trade, energy and communications corridors linking South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and China. Regional integration will accelerate economic growth and prosperity in this part of Asia, and beyond.
The minister said that a number of major US Corporations and businesses have a long history of association with Pakistan, and boast an extremely good return on their investments. Pakistan strongly feels that US programmes can play a key role in disseminating their good stories and business experiences in Pakistan to potential investors from US, he added.
Minister for Finance, Muhammad Ishaq Dar here on Tuesday called upon the US investors for taking optimum benefits from the lucrative and investment friendly policies of the government and explores investment opportunities available in different sectors of national economy to further enhance bilateral trade and investment between Pakistan and United States.
Ishaq Dar said that government would provide every possible facility to US investors to invest in Pakistan adding that one-window facilitation center has also been established to facilitate the foreign investors. Finance Minister informed the US investors that his government was focusing on 3 Es including economy, energy and elimination of terrorism which was the major part of election 2013 manifesto of the incumbent government.
Giving the overview of national economy, he informed that economy was on upward trajectory due to reforms agenda introduced by the government and all economic indicators showed resilience during last 21 months. He said that revenue collection witnessed 16.4 percent increase as compared to last year and GDP was growing at average of 4.14 percent where as home remittances grew by 13.7 percent.
Speaking on the occasion, US Secretary Commerce, Penny Pritzker said that the US wants to engage Pakistan in positive commercial diplomacy which is mutually beneficial for the two nations. She said that the conference was intended to engage the private sectors from both the countries to strengthen the business to business ties and boost bilateral trade and investment. She applauded the work done by the private sectors of both the countries and called upon them to continue their efforts to expend trade and investment relation between both the countries. She urged the government to improve the business climate by implementing measures to increase transparency, enforce contracts streamlining the civil services structure.
Two panel discussions were held after the inaugural session. The First panel discussion was on Trade and Investment Opportunities in Pakistan and the second session was on Doing Business in Pakistan
In the first discussion Miftah Ismail, Ch. Board of Investment highlighted key factors which distinguish Pakistan as a prime destination for investors which included abundance of natural resources like coal reservoirs, potential for hydro power generation, gas resources, copper reserves, fertile agricultural land and long coastal. He further highlighted Pakistan has huge pool of young labor force and moreover Pakistan is a market of 200 million consumers. He acknowledged the fact that Pakistan has not been able to realize its potential in the past however now the government has put the economy on right track and the vast improvement in micro and macro-economic indicator is and evidence. He asserted that although the risk on investment in Pakistan is higher however the return is also higher. He quoted the example of power sector where return on investment is around seventeen percent which is higher than anywhere in the world.
Secretary Commerce brought forward various key initiatives taken by the Government to make Pakistan a top priority destination for investors which included rectifying the Global Agreement on Trade and Environment, accession to Convention Against Corruption, strengthening of Competition Commission of Pakistan and revamping the tariff structure of Pakistan.
Chairman Federal Board of Revenue, Tariq Bajwa said that Pakistan provides lucrative and profitable business activities in the several sectors where new incentives for foreign and local investors have been put forward. He said that mineral sector, coal mining, energy, infrastructure development at Gawadar Port, machinery import for port development is tax free. He said that tariff slabs have been reduced from 7 to 5 and the applied tariff is effectively at 25% which will be brought down further. He apprised that audience about the tax administration reforms and said that through automation of the system the Government is vying to put in place a corruption-free and speedy tax system in which the officials enjoy least discretion.
After the panel discussion, three separate sessions of business to business meeting between the private businessmen of Pakistan and US were held in the sectors of energy, infrastructure and textile. The US businessmen were apprised of the valuable opportunities that Pakistan provides in hydel energy, renewable energy, and LNG sector. The US businessmen were urged to provide investment in the overhaul of the electricity transmission system which is in dilapidated state and needs huge investment for up-gradation. The investors were also given an insight about the opportunities of value addition in the textile sector where Pakistan produces raw material but lacks the complete infrastructure from farm to high-end fashion products. Potential opportunities in the infrastructure sectors were also discussed in the B-to-B meeting as Pakistan needs huge investment in infrastructure development which is necessary for the developing the economy.
March 10, 2015