U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Islamabad, Pakistan this week as part of the Administration’s efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan and strengthen the partnership between our governments and people.
As part of her first official visit to the country, Secretary Pritzker joined Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch the first-ever U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week, a bilateral initiative intended to highlight the potential for growing the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. She thanked senior government officials for their dedication to improving the partnership and acknowledged that the economic relationship between the two countries has, over the years, buttressed the overall relationship and is still growing.
U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included the third U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, an event intended to engage the private sector from both the United States and Pakistan, and strengthen business-to-business ties.
Secretary Pritzker opened the Business Opportunities Conference on Tuesday. Addressing an audience of more than 400 people, many attending from overseas, the Secretary applauded the work being done by the Pakistani and American private sector companies represented. She commended them for engaging with government agencies seeking to improve Pakistan’s business and investment climate and called on them to continue their efforts to expand trade and investment between Pakistan and the United States.
As the 6th largest country by population in the world with a market of nearly 200 million people and a growing consumer class, Pakistan is the most quickly urbanizing country in South Asia. The United States is Pakistan’s largest export market and largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). In fact, American companies have invested more than $1.3 billion in Pakistan over the last seven years.
President Obama and Secretary Pritzker believe that increased commercial engagement between nations can lead to more effective solutions to global problems and a more peaceful, prosperous and secure planet. At the U.S. Commerce Department, this kind of work is called “commercial diplomacy,” and it is one of the Department’s central priorities.
Additional activities of the U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included a working-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting between the Pakistani and U.S. governments; and several other bilateral engagements.
During her trip, Secretary Pritzker also held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to highlight the progress Pakistan is making on its economic reform agenda under the Prime Minister’s leadership, and to urge the Government of Pakistan to improve the business climate by implementing measures to increase transparency, enforce contracts, and streamline bureaucracy.
She stressed that both countries will only realize the full potential of the commercial relationship if they overcome certain challenges that have created the perception that Pakistan is too difficult a place to do business – factors including security, bureaucracy, and energy stability.
To better understand the business climate in Pakistan, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with U.S. business leaders to hear about their experiences and challenges doing business in country.
Secretary Pritzker also met with a number of Pakistani women entrepreneurs to discuss the issues they face launching a business in Pakistan. While Pakistan is outpacing many other developing countries in fostering news business ideas and in building home-grown infrastructure for entrepreneurship, the Secretary said that Pakistan must empower women to thrive in order to harness the talent of 100 percent of its population to create a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.