This week in New York City, America and Pakistan are partnering together to host the fourth annual US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference. The Conference on June 2-3 will bring together over 250 industry representatives, investors, and government leaders from our two nations and will feature emerging professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as established firms like Proctor and Gamble, Motorola, General Electric, Pepsi, and Coca Cola, to name a few. This year’s Conference will focus on opportunities in agriculture, information and communications technology, health care, and fashion apparel. It will also highlight the innovative ways our cooperation can catalyse action by the private sector. For example, we recently launched the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, which is a bilateral partnership, making over $150 million in investments to grow small- and medium-sized businesses in Pakistan.
In the six months I have been in Pakistan, I have seen start-ups, small businesses, and large corporations all striving for expansion into new markets with a palpable sense of energy and forward thinking. Pakistan’s government has done a lot to stabilise Pakistan’s economy, and we are seeing signs of steady economic expansion in Pakistan. An important part of my job as Ambassador is expanding the business links between Pakistan and the United States, and ensuring that we are doing all we can to contribute to Pakistan’s economic growth. Both of our countries benefit from expanded economic ties. They make up a critical component of the US-Pakistan relationship, which over time will increasingly be about our business links.
The Business Opportunities Conference is another sign of the growing cooperation between our two economies. GE, for example, has tripled its business in Pakistan in recent years and GE Vice Chairman John Rice, the corporate keynote at this week’s conference, will also attest to GE’s expanding business in Pakistan. But businesses cannot succeed without adequate infrastructure and an educated workforce with opportunities for all citizens, men and women alike. Businesses looking to work in Pakistan need predictability and fairness in policies and taxation, streamlined bureaucratic processes, and timely and reliable ways of resolving disputes. These are points we hear consistently from the US businesses interested in investing in Pakistan. We hope Pakistan will redouble its efforts to demonstrate that it welcomes international business.
Another crucial ingredient to lasting economic growth is incorporating women into the workforce, which is an issue we at the American Embassy care deeply about, and work on in partnership with Pakistani leaders. Ensuring women have access to education and employment opportunities and the ability to acquire skills to start and run their businesses will increase overall economic development. That is why in 2014 we joined with The Indus Entrepreneurs in Islamabad to launch the WECREATE Center in Islamabad, the first of its kind in the world, to cultivate women entrepreneurs. The Center has been a tremendous success and is now operated by a local partner. At this week’s conference, our governments will jointly launch an Action Plan to build cooperation on women’s economic ennoblement, building on the excellent work of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council. The Council advances women’s education, employment, and entrepreneurship by working with the Pakistani-American community, forward-thinking universities like the Lahore University of Management Sciences and American University, and businesses like PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Proctor & Gamble, and Engro.
In another area of economic cooperation, Pakistan and America are working together to ensure that businesses have the reliable energy that they need to reach their potential. Through the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership and joint efforts that have added 2300 megawatts of power to Pakistan’s supply to date, America is supporting Pakistani efforts to realise Pakistan’s energy needs by diversifying power generation and supporting more efficient distribution. Our cooperation through more than 20 partnerships between American and Pakistani universities is building a “knowledge corridor” that can benefit all of us. We are working hard to make it easier and more profitable for Pakistani and American companies to do business together. A relationship built on a firm foundation of business ties and economic cooperation will be an enduring one.
The U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference is another strong dimension of our multifaceted relationship, and we look forward to a successful conference and to the closer economic relationship that will surely follow.
This op-ed was published in English in the Business Recorder on June 1, 2016.