KARACHI: US Consul General in Karachi, Brian Heath has said that although the current trade volume between United States and Pakistan was above US$5 billion and Pakistan enjoys trade surplus but this trade volume was not a lot and there was plenty of room for growth.
“This is the reason why most of our assistance is focused on helping Pakistan’s economy grow”, he added while exchanging views during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
Political/ Economic Section Chief of US Consulate in Karachi, Chad Peterson, Chairman Businessmen Group and Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, Vice Chairman BMG Zubair Motiwala, President KCCI Younus Mohammad Bashir, Senior Vice President KCCI Zia Ahmed Khan, Vice President KCCI Mohammad Naeem Sharif, Former President KCCI, Abdullah Zaki and KCCI Managing Committee members were present at the meeting.
“We (the United States) talk about stronger democracy in Pakistan, we talk about stronger security environment and we talk about stronger economy as these three things are very much in the interest of business community and the future generations of Pakistan”, Brian Heath said.
US Consul General was of the opinion that Pakistan has an important role to play not only for its own population but also for the entire region. “A stable South Asia is critical to world’s peace and world’s economy. We can’t have a stable South Asia without a stable Pakistan”, he added, keeping in view the geographical location of Pakistan.
He further commented that Pakistan and United States have been enjoying long-lasting relations from the very beginning which were based on mutual trust and shared interest. “Although these relations have seen many ups & down, twists & turns, thrills & chills from time to time, but currently the Pak-US ties have improved and were becoming stronger”, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Chairman Businessmen Group and Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli said that although many people have been saying that relations between Pakistan and United States have been improving but these relations were not as good as they should have been.
Appreciating the US Consulate in Karachi for its constant support to KCCI, Siraj Teli advised the Consul General to create some kind of liaison or a committee with the Karachi Chamber to not only discuss the economic issues but also the image of Pakistan and the image of Karachi city with a view clarify many misconceptions about security situation of Karachi.
“In this regard, KCCI has been organizing My Karachi Exhibition under the theme of Oasis of Harmony since 2004 to promote the soft side of Karachi as it was observed that due to some terrorist activities in any particular locality of Karachi, a bad image of the entire city was created by the western media. “To rectify this issue, we decided to organize My Karachi Exhibition which is constantly being organized every year since 2004 while the next 13th My Karachi Exhibition will be staged in March next year”, Siraj Teli said, “The reason for staging My Karachi Exhibition is to tell the world that Karachi is not as bad as it looks from the outside, mainly due to negative media reports about the entire city.”
Referring to US strategy of promoting investments in warzones like Iraq, BMG Chairman said that the security situation of Pakistan, particularly Karachi city, was much better as compared to such countries. “Karachi is much safer after the commencement of Karachi Operation some two years ago”, he added.
He further underscored the need to highlight the bustling activities and peaceful environment of Karachi where people are now fearlessly seen on the streets whereas the commercial activities have intensified.
Vice Chairman BMG and Former President KCCI Zubair Motiwala, in his remarks, advised the US Consulate to enhance its interaction with the most important business and industrial community of Pakistan i.e. the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Although the US Consulate has been consulting with KCCI but we need to discuss and engage ourselves into more dialogue”, he added.
Commenting on Pak-US ties, Zubair Motiwala said that apart from being the largest trading partner of Pakistan, United States has helped Pakistan generate 1600 megawatts of electricity, supported education in more than 1,000 schools and Pakistan was also the largest recipient of American aid but unfortunately 96 percent of the US aid comprises of military aid and only 4 percent was being utilized on social and development projects. He requested the United States to increase aid for development projects of Pakistan. “We need to have more concentration and more aid to development projects of Pakistan”, he added.
Referring to the losses suffered by Pakistan due to war against terrorism, Zubair Motiwala stressed that the people of Pakistan need education and a secure environment now so that they could live peacefully and prosper. US wants to see terrorism and extremism minimizing in Pakistan, which can happen as terrorism and extremism come out of the empty stomach which creates suicide bombers.
To deal with this issue, he advised the United States that to help Pakistan create job opportunities which can be done by granting zero-rated status to Pakistan’s exports as the existing 18 percent duty was a serious problem, which if reduced will surely help in dealing with all the ills of Pakistan. “We actually have to address the grass root cause which is unemployment so we need to create maximum number of jobs in Pakistan. If United States really wants to help Pakistan on a sustainable and long-term basis then they must consider granting a rational duty structure for Pakistan as under the existing duty structure, we are unable to compete with our counterparts in Bangladesh and India etc.”, he added.
Earlier, while welcoming the US Consul General, President KCCI, Younus Mohammad Bashir, said that Karachi, which is the economic hub of Pakistan, offers profitable investment opportunities and added facilities for investment and joint ventures to US Investors. He was of the opinion that the law and order situation in Karachi had substantially improved, thanks to the untiring efforts made by Law Enforcement Agencies in effectively dealing with insecurity and restoring peace in Karachi to a certain extent.
President KCCI said that the Karachi Chamber was keen to strengthen trade ties and explore new bilateral trade prospects with the US as they strongly believe in ‘Trade, not Aid’. “Pakistan’s improved relations and enhanced trade with countries like the US would surely help in dealing with the ongoing economic crisis and ensure prosperity for our country”, he opined.
Commenting on Pakistan-US relations are concerned, President KCCI noted that Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally of USA and an integral part of the Global War against Terrorism. United States has been providing military and non-military aid to Pakistan since long; however, trade relations between the two countries have remained limited.
Referring to State Bank of Pakistan’s report, President KCCI mentioned that during Fiscal Year 2014-15, Pakistan’s exports to US were recorded at $3,959 million as against exports of $3,951 million in the previous Fiscal Year 2014, showing a rise of 0.17 percent. Moreover, Pakistan’s import from US stood at $1,197 million during FY15 as against imports of $1,125 million in the same period last year, reflecting an increase of 6.35 percent.
Only by increasing trade and economic activities, both the US and Pakistan can enjoy mutually beneficial relations on a sustained basis, Younus Bashir opined, adding that being a trading partner and a close ally of the US, Pakistan can explore ways to enhance its bilateral trade with the US, and realize the full potential of the US GSP.