Pakistan to Serve as Hub of International Trade
By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui

Irvine, 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 "new Pakistan."

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 year.


Above:Glimpses 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.

The 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.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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