Pak business delegation seeks to enhance trade ties with US

WASHINGTON: A 20-member business delegation has vowed to enhance and expand economic and trade ties with the United States.

The high-powered delegation comprising at least 10 listed companies, including representation from the Pakistan Business Council, Pakistan Stock Exchange, market research companies, large financial institutions and others is visiting the US these days.

It will present success stories and opportunities at the second investors conference organised by JS Global Capital, Pakistan’s largest premier brokerage and investment banking firm, today (Wednesday) in New York.

In its first leg of tour, the delegation met officials from the State Department here on Monday, urging them to soften travel-related advisories so that American investors could be confident to visit Pakistan and make considerable business-related decisions. According to Kamran Nasir, CEO JS Global, the US officials were apprised about growing opportunities as the country transforms into an investment friendly destination.

“We had a candid exchange and managed to discuss mutual concerns with the objective that both countries cannot afford to ignore opportunities that lay ahead,” Kamran said, adding the Americans were told that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was merely an infrastructure network which would ensure foreign direct investment into the country.

“It’s not just about China, the machinery that is being used in energy-related projects and otherwise comes from American companies. Similarly, logistics and technical equipment areas would provide a large window of options to invest in Pakistan,” he said.

The head of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Richard Morin told The News that the mission in Washington was more about promoting trade between the two countries, and removing barrier or irritants. “Pakistan equities are very reasonably priced. There are tremendous growth opportunities for PSX listed companies, and the plan is to share foreign portfolio and direct investment options with US investors,” he said.

Morin added that uncertainty rhymes with opportunity. “If I was a Pakistani investor, my reaction would be to get PSX stocks which is a screaming buyer — a superb buying opportunity. It’s 20 percent cheaper, and these companies provide close to five and a half percent dividend yield, that is almost the interest rate that you get on a savings bond. Then there’s capital appreciation opportunity of the stock market that tops it all,” he said.

Chairman of the Pakistan Business Council Ahsan Malik said Pakistan has a vibrant middle class that’s ready to compete with the rest of the world. “The manufacturing sector represents 13.5 percent of the total GDP by affording 58 percent of tax burden. This isn’t sustainable but expansion in tax base will offer cuts in high taxes on formal sector and provide glowing opportunity for a new investor,” he said.

Ahsan Malik maintained that CPEC provides opportunity to the US companies to bring technological advances in various areas, especially the agriculture sector. Part of the delegation was also Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as Hubco CEO Khalid Mansoor who said that the second investor conference was an earnest effort to dispel Pakistan’s negative image and showcase untapped business opportunities to multinational companies.

“The Business Confidence Index survey has been extremely positive that tells a paradigm shift in growing business environment and should correct Pakistan’s image,” he said. The delegation had compiled a more than hundred pages long comprehensive presentation to convince the US companies about investment in Pakistan in various carefully identified business and development areas. The booklet shows facts and figures along with comparisons with regional competitors. The delegation also met members of the US Pakistan Business Council and had detailed engagements with scholars at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, a local think-tank, on Tuesday.

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