ISLAMABAD       -       United States on Wednesday offered help in Pakistan’s energy sector and said the details of the projects where economic cooperation could be enhanced are being worked on. Wilbur Ross, Secretary Commerce of the United States of America, made these remarks in a meeting with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh here at the Finance Division.

In line with the mutual desire on the part of both US and Pakistani leadership to intensify economic engagement with particular focus on trade and investment, Wilbur Ross, undertook a bilateral visit to Islamabad on 26th February, 2020. The said visit was outcome of recently held discussions of Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump to promote bilateral trade and enhanced economic engagement.

The adviser welcomed the secretary commerce and said that Pakistan and United States had maintained a durable relationship over the years and there was a need to build it further. The Adviser said that the arrival of the delegation from the commerce sector is good news for Pakistan and would have positive consequences for the country. “This is at a time when the government is looking forward to a major boost in exports after offering concessions to the export oriented sector of Pakistan.”

The adviser said that Pakistan was trying to carve out a new progressive image in the comity of nations. “We have tried to follow the FATF action plan to a significant level, opened our markets to the foreign investors by providing ease of doing business and we are trying to build our image as a tourism-friendly and investment-opportunity country in the region.” The adviser also shared the updates on the economy with the US Secretary of Commerce. He said that though the country is trying to revive the economy through stabilization reform and inviting foreign investment to the country as well as taking care of its vulnerable, the rising prices of food items, high energy prices and slow revenue generation were issues that concerned him.

He said that the government’s efforts are directed towards providing ease to the common man and it would require guidance from its global partners as well. The trade between the two countries is only around $7 billion and the country has an urgent need to increase that to help in GDP growth which requires long term planning for economic development. He said that we have made a mistake in the past of not forming our alliances on the economic front based on our developmental requirements. He felt this was the time to enable the relationship to become more long lasting on a firm footing. The Adviser said that he hopes that a healthy interaction shall continue in future as well.

US Secretary Commerce also met Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries & Production and Investment. The issues related to bilateral trade and enhanced market access to Pakistan were discussed. The Adviser told the visiting delegation that after achieving economic stability, the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan is now focusing on job creation and export augmentation by encouraging foreign investments. He suggested that this is high time for US companies to invest in Pakistan.  He also took up the issue of early convening of the long awaited 9th session of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting as well as the visit of US business delegation to Pakistan to participate in the Business Opportunities Conference in order to forge a better networking among the private sectors of both countries. The adviser also suggested that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) should help in developing of new businesses in Pakistan. Wilbur Ross said that his visit to Pakistan is part of his government’s desire to increase trade relations with Pakistan. He also believed that such links between both the counties would not only enhance trade but encourage further expansion of ties in all fields of economic engagement. About IDFC assistance, Secretary Ross sounded positive and suggested that Ministry of Commerce should propose projects in this regard.

US Secretary of Commerce also called on Minister for Energy, Omar Ayub Khan. The energy minister gave an overview of Pakistan’s energy sector and the present government’s earnest endeavours in reforming this sector. These efforts are being personally overseen by the Prime Minister of Pakistan himself. Omar Ayub Khan called for greater US investment in energy sector including areas such as power generation, transmission and distribution, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, hydel energy and training opportunities.

The minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to cleaner fuels and green energy. The Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar informed the visiting side on key actions taken to improve ease of doing business in Pakistan. SAPM also shared how more US investments could be incremental in improving the business relations between both the US and Pakistan. Wilbur Ross said his visit to Pakistan is part of the US government’s desire to increase trade links with Pakistan. He also believed that such links between both the counties would not only enhance trade but encourage further expansion of ties in all fields. Both the sides agreed to step up cooperation in the energy sector.