Pakistan to Serve as
Hub of International Trade
By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui
CA: Mr. Tariq Ikram, Federal Minister of State and Chairman
Export Promotion Bureau, furnished proof of Pakistan's buoyant
economy in an illuminating talk at a luncheon meeting at
the Marriot on January 13. "The world does not know what
has taken place (in Pakistan)," he claimed, as he enumerated
the salient features of the rapidly growing economy of a
Given the present trend and the country's strategic location,
Pakistan is poised to emerge as the hub of international
trade in the not too distant future, he confidently declared.
Mr. Ikram was addressing a select group of businessmen at
a luncheon hosted by the Center for the Study of Emerging
Markets (CSEM) at California State Fullerton which has been
actively engaged in trade promotion between the United States
and foreign countries.
The Minister provided an expose on doing business in Pakistan
with the objectives of how to help business grow and be
more competitive in an increasingly global environment.
Author of the 'Export vision and strategy for Pakistan'
program, which has produced tangible results, Mr. Ikram
cited several success stories to support his claim of a
wholesome change on Pakistan's economic front. "A turn around
in the economy has taken place. The GDP closed at 6.4% last
of the luncheon meeting.Minister Tariq Ikram is seen above
with Consul General Jadmani,Commercial Counsellor Shahid
Tarar and other invitees
This year it could exceed 7%," he said. The inflation rate
has dropped from 10% - a norm during the last 57 years -
to 4%. What is more, the foreign exchange reserves have
climbed to $ 12 billion, approximating the country's one-year
import figures, in sharp contrast to the 1999 figures of
$ 500 million A former private sector senior executive with
a wealth of management expertise, Minister Ikram described
at length the successes that the team of technocrats under
General Musharraf has been able to achieve to reverse the
economic slide of the 1990s. An "increase in foreign debt
was the trend in the last 57 years."
The debt "has for the first time gone down," he informed.
Likewise, considerable success was achieved in boosting
the country's exports which in the last 57 years had averaged
at $8.5 billion. Exceeding this figure had proved a Herculean
task, a hopeless proposition - a "mirage" forcing planners
"every year" to achieve the desired results "next year."
Thanks to the sustained strivings of the present government,
efforts to boost exports have been crowned with success.
"We had to focus on selected areas." Initially, "we focused
on Eastern Europe and Africa "to launch multilateral and
bilateral arrangements. Subsequently, FTAs were signed with
a number of countries.
In President Musharraf's last meeting with President Bush
"understanding for an FTA" was reached with the US, the
Minister stated. He informed the businessmen present in
the meeting that the Pakistan government is currently pursuing
an "open policy" - it makes "no difference between Pakistan
and foreign companies." Describing the law and order situation
"just as good or as bad as in New York", Minister Tariq
invited the businessmen to visit Pakistan in February when
Expo Pakistan would be organized in Karachi to promote a
better understanding of Pakistan, its people, and businesses.
Expo will serve as a "global market place for direct interaction
between buyers and sellers. It is expected that about 1,000
reputed importers from the world, heads of chain stores,
opinion leaders, and important overseas buyers will attend
the Expo. The event, according to a publication, "will play
a key role in widening the international appeal for Pakistani
products and services." It will be held at the Expo Center
Karachi from February 2-5, 2005. During the question answer
session, Tim Cooley of NovaCap expressed to the Minister
that Pakistan must continue to post such economic gains
in order to build respect as it has in the last few years
coupled with disseminating this information to the business
world to attract more investment. He intimated that we need
to hear more good news from Pakistan. Dr. Cynthia Coad inquired
about the role of women in the current government and within
the current economic growth environment. Replying to her
question, Minister Ikram informed that in the last four
years concerted efforts have been made to train women entrepreneurs.
They form an "upcoming group." Today there are more than
128 women entrepreneurs in the country and their number
is fast multiplying. Women are also encouraged to make foreign
business trips and the government finances such visits.
Earlier, Dr Joe Greco, introduced the minister. He also
presented the CSEM vision of promoting the flow of information
between various enterprises. With a well-developed network
and a trade database encompassing 50,000 companies globally,
CSEM is keen to have Pakistan as one of its affiliates to
promote rapport and trade between Pakistani and American
businessmen. Mr Mahboob Akhter, President of Focus Software
International, who had invited many local business and community
leaders and acted as the MC of the event, had an enlivening
influence on the proceedings. He also introduced the distinguished
entrepreneurs attending the meeting.
The attendees included: Consul General Noor Mohammad Jadmani,
Commercial Counsellor Shahid Tarar, COPAA President Hamid
Malik, former President of COPPA Ahmed Ali, PL Publications
President Wasi Qureshey, Zepways President Tariq Chaudhry,
Princeton Technologies President Nasir Javed, Textec Creations
President Karim Raza and WorldLink President Tasnim Ahmad.
Also, in attendance were notable local leaders such as Tim
Cooley of NovaCap, Founder and Board Member of Tech Coas
Angels Luis Villalobos, Executive Director of OCTANe Gary
Augusta, Chairman of the Board of Metro Pacific Bank Brian
Hoyle with the Bank's other Directors Bill Kelly, Robert
Hildt, CEO of Newport Bay Hospital James Parkhurst, former
Chair of Orange County Board of Supervisors Dr. Cynthia
Coad, former candidate for Orange County Board Dr. Tom Coad,
President of American Praxis Corporation John Pearson, David
Berry, President of Irvin Aerospace and President/CEO of
accessio Boris Bormann. The relationship with the local
business community was originally established by Mr. Abid
Javed Akber, Vice Chairman of Export Promotion Bureau during
his tenure in Los Angeles, strengthened by Mr. Tariq Bajwa
who has been succeeded by Mr. Shahid Tarar recently.