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Pakistan, US Officials Working to Boost Trade

FILE - U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

U.S. and Pakistani officials are looking to boost bilateral trade and economic ties this week as U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visits Islamabad. Officials want to encourage U.S. investment as well as improve economic opportunities for Pakistani women.

The hallmark of the so-called U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week is a two-day business conference that opened Tuesday in Islamabad. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker underscored the importance of expanding bilateral relations, particularly economic and trade ties, while addressing the inaugural session.

“The United States and Pakistan share a commitment to defeating terrorism, strengthening democracy and spurring prosperity for our people," said Pritzker. "At a fundamental level, it is in the interest of the United States for Pakistan to be stable, peaceful, tolerant nation with a growing economy at peace with itself and with its neighbors.”

The United States is Pakistan’s largest export market and largest investor. While security cooperation has long defined the nature of bilateral relations, Secretary Pritzker says the U.S. and Pakistan are now entering an era with economics at the center of the relationship.

She emphasized the need for Pakistan to improve the business climate by implementing measures to increase transparency, enforce contracts and streamline bureaucracy.

“We will work shoulder to shoulder with you to address the security challenges facing Pakistan," said Pritzker. "As that fight continues, we can and should focus attention on developing the U.S.-Pakistan economic partnership. Beyond security concerns, many companies have reported to us that bureaucratic procedures in Pakistan could be complex, arbitrary and unpredictable.”

Secretary Pritzker urged the private sector in Pakistan to create greater opportunities for women in the workplace across all sectors of the economy.

“Too many barriers remain to full economic inclusion for women, but we must make women’s empowerment a priority each and everyday," said Pritzker. "Women make up half of Pakistan’s population, yet represent just 25 percent of the workforce and own only 2 percent of the country’s businesses. For Pakistan to succeed in the global economy, those numbers must change and change quickly.”

Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the conference his government is committed to continuing its fight against terrorism to ensure peace in Pakistan. He also says the government has introduced reforms to improve the economic and investment climates.

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