Serena Hotel, Islamabad | August 26, 2015
Thank you to Ijaz Nisar and all the others from the CEO Club Pakistan and Manager Today magazine who put together this this impressive event, “CEO Summit Asia 2015.”
The subject of the conference is “Believe in Pakistan,” and this session is entitled, “A Land of Opportunity.” These are recurring themes of our bilateral relationship, and they reflect the sentiment of our many years of cooperation in the economic sphere, as well as the larger strategic partnership that we have.
The United States and Pakistan are indeed long-time partners. In case you haven’t yet noticed, we have a new embassy in Islamabad, and we are here to stay for the long term. Over the decades, we have done much work together, and there is much more to come.
During my stay here in Islamabad, I have seen much progress. The United States is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, with total trade volumes approximating $5 billion annually. Moreover, in recognition of our commitment to the relationship with Pakistan, and our intent to stand by Pakistan as it faces an increasingly complex set of internal and regional challenges, the United States has provided billions of dollars in assistance, plus support through multilateral development banks.
The United States has worked with Pakistan to address its economic and development priorities, including addressing energy and gas shortages and infrastructure needs. We have funded the construction of more than 500 kilometers of roads, many that link the underdeveloped regions of the Tribal Areas to other areas of Pakistan. We have worked to improve healthcare and health education in Pakistan, and provided food supplements to address hunger and chronic malnutrition.
Moreover, we are working to build strong people-to-people connections. This year, the U.S. government will send more than 700 Pakistani students to academic exchange programs, and another 500 Pakistani professionals to shorter, work-related programs in the United States.
Economic reform and growth is also the focus of Pakistan’s government, and we are seeing results. Macroeconomic stability has returned to the country – a big change from just a few years ago. Pakistan recently passed the eighth review of its IMF program, and the government continues with its program of economic reforms, including privatization.
Of course, there is always much more to do. Levels of foreign direct investment have been low, and exports have declined. The energy sector still has its challenges.
Down the road, our governments are working on a plan that involves “trade, not aid.” In Washington, we recently announced the reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences, which gives greater access to the U.S. market to countries like Pakistan.
In March, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Islamabad, convening the Business Opportunities Conference.
One key take-away from that event is that the U.S. private sector will come to Pakistan to trade and invest if they feel that the business environment and investment climate are right. Among other things, we hope to work with the Government of Pakistan to improve the country’s standing in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
One last thing I’d like to mention is Pakistan’s large youth population. Sixty percent of population is under age of thirty. Identifying opportunity for young people is becoming a public policy priority. The emerging Internet economy is an excellent area for growth, particularly for the nation’s youth. As broadband access grows and mobile technologies are adopted, entrepreneurs will emerge, and new businesses will grow. This is the key to business development in the 21st century.
Thank you very much for your attention.