On the second day of his official tour Sharif, along with others, met US Trade Representative, Mike Froman and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, besides addressing a meeting of American corporate executives at the US Chamber of Commerce. During this, Pakistan sought US assistance in reviving its fragile economy, officials said.

Citing his country's proximity to the billion-plus markets in India and China, Sharif sought US investment to Pakistan and listed out steps taken to improve economic environment of the country.

"Pakistan's proximity to two of the world's largest markets, China and India, places us right in the middle of where all the action is going to be in the years to come," Sharif said in his address to the American businesses at a meeting organized by the US-Pakistan Business Council. Improvement in security environment and good governance was common theme on second day of the visit of Pakistan PM, officials said.

"Secretary Moniz encouraged Pakistan to advance policies that promote a secure investment climate and good governance," a Department of Energy spokesperson said after meeting. Moniz, during the meeting, echoed the message of Secretary of State John Kerry that as Pakistan's largest trading partner, US remains committed to an economic relationship increasingly based on trade and investment, including in the energy sector, the spokesperson said.

Energy is one of the three top priorities of Sharif government, followed by economy and extremism. Sharif and Moniz discussed US support for Pakistan's energy sector, the spokesperson said. The meeting between Froman and Sharif focused on strengthening the trade and investment relationship between the two countries, the USTR said.

In 2012, two-way trade was valued at USD 5.2 billion. As compared, the two way trade between India and US has now touched USD 100 billion and in a meeting in September 2013 US President, Barack Obama, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to increase it to USD 500 billion. "Froman and Sharif agreed that a strong US-Pakistan trade relationship is in our mutual interest, and vowed to work together to increase bilateral trade and investment," the USTD said after the meeting.

Citing the notable progress made in addressing trade and investment issues under the US-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Froman offered to host the next meeting of the TIFA Council in Washington. Listing out positive demographic profile of his country, in addition to the steps being taken by his government to create a business friendly environment, Sharif said after coming to power early in 2013, he has been working towards establishing regional peace in South Asia, which he argued is essential for the economic prosperity of the region.

"My government is determined to pursue regional peace and security, as its top most priority. We seek good neighborly relations with India, Afghanistan and rest of the countries in the region," Sharif said, noting that establishment of peace was a foremost requirement to lift the country out of poverty.

"This is why I have reached out to the Indian Prime Minister and sought to pursue peace and full normalization of relations with our eastern neighbor," Sharif said. Less than a month ago, Sharif had met Prime Minister Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Power project decisions   

Sharif said his government has taken firm decisions on a number of major power projects totaling around 10,000 MW that would be able to meet the supply demand gap in power sector. "Other ambitious projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline, the Central Asia South Asia (CASA)-1000 electricity project, Pakistan China Economic Corridor, the Torkham-Jalalabad Road and the Kunar Power Project should give you a good idea of what is possible and what is being done already," he said.

Observing that Pakistan is an upcoming emerging market Sharif said the energy that will fuel growth in the region and beyond, is also in abundance not just up north of Pakistan in the largely untapped and locked Central Asia, but also down South in Iran, the Gulf and the Middle East.

"At our end, to harness potential that this geographical advantage offers, we are making the required national investments and attracting more from overseas to develop trade and energy corridors, linking the ports in the South to Northern Pakistan and onwards to China, Afghanistan and Central Asia," he said.

Noting that there is no way his government can turnaround the economy without first dealing with the serious energy shortfalls that he has inherited, Sharif said he has made it a top priority to do whatever is required to improve security environment in Pakistan. "It is now my personal mission to push and prod all those who can and must contribute in building peace and enforcing the writ of the State, be it in Karachi, Quetta or FATA, or any other part of Pakistan," he said.

In his address to the US business community, Sharif acknowledged the challenges being faced by his country in the field of security and governance. "We are aware of the daunting challenges. Acute energy shortages, a weak economy and militancy, do post huge problems for Pakistan," he said.

"We are engaged in well thought out policy programmes and plans of action, to resolve them and in fact implementation in this regard has already begun. Moreover, we will soon be coming up with fiscal incentives driven policy for oil and gas exploration in Pakistan," he said.

Sharif said the initial contours of his national security and counterterrorism strategy have already been given shape. "While dealing firmly with the challenges of terrorism and extremism across the country, we are also keeping the doors open for those who are willing to be reconciled with. The All Parties Conference (APC) has fully endorsed this approach and promised complete support," he said.

"I am also happy to share that in a short span of just over four months we have been in the government, we have taken a number of significant steps. My government has settled inherited energy circular debt, amounting to 5 billion dollars. Consequently, we have succeeded in adding 1700 MW of electricity to national grid,” he said.

"Moreover, financial plans are being finalised to begin work on Diamer Bhasha and Dasu hydel power projects, as well as few wind and solar projects," Sharif said. The Pakistan PM mentioned steps taken for revival of Pakistan economy, like a new National Power Policy, three year macro-economic stability programme, fiscal austerity drive and an IMF-supported USD 6.6 billion package.


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