Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Working to Strengthen Economic Relationship, Secretary Pritzker Concludes Commercial Diplomacy Trip to Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Islamabad, Pakistan this week as part of the Administration’s efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan and strengthen the partnership between our governments and people.

As part of her first official visit to the country, Secretary Pritzker joined Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch the first-ever U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week, a bilateral initiative intended to highlight the potential for growing the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. She thanked senior government officials for their dedication to improving the partnership and acknowledged that the economic relationship between the two countries has, over the years, buttressed the overall relationship and is still growing.

U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included the third U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, an event intended to engage the private sector from both the United States and Pakistan, and strengthen business-to-business ties.

Secretary Pritzker opened the Business Opportunities Conference on Tuesday. Addressing an audience of more than 400 people, many attending from overseas, the Secretary applauded the work being done by the Pakistani and American private sector companies represented. She commended them for engaging with government agencies seeking to improve Pakistan’s business and investment climate and called on them to continue their efforts to expand trade and investment between Pakistan and the United States.

As the 6th largest country by population in the world with a market of nearly 200 million people and a growing consumer class, Pakistan is the most quickly urbanizing country in South Asia. The United States is Pakistan’s largest export market and largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). In fact, American companies have invested more than $1.3 billion in Pakistan over the last seven years.

President Obama and Secretary Pritzker believe that increased commercial engagement between nations can lead to more effective solutions to global problems and a more peaceful, prosperous and secure planet. At the U.S. Commerce Department, this kind of work is called “commercial diplomacy,” and it is one of the Department’s central priorities.

Additional activities of the U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included a working-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting between the Pakistani and U.S. governments; and several other bilateral engagements.

During her trip, Secretary Pritzker also held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to highlight the progress Pakistan is making on its economic reform agenda under the Prime Minister’s leadership, and to urge the Government of Pakistan to improve the business climate by implementing measures to increase transparency, enforce contracts, and streamline bureaucracy.

She stressed that both countries will only realize the full potential of the commercial relationship if they overcome certain challenges that have created the perception that Pakistan is too difficult a place to do business – factors including security, bureaucracy, and energy stability.

To better understand the business climate in Pakistan, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with U.S. business leaders to hear about their experiences and challenges doing business in country.

Secretary Pritzker also met with a number of Pakistani women entrepreneurs to discuss the issues they face launching a business in Pakistan. While Pakistan is outpacing many other developing countries in fostering news business ideas and in building home-grown infrastructure for entrepreneurship, the Secretary said that Pakistan must empower women to thrive in order to harness the talent of 100 percent of its population to create a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Friday, 27 February 2015

Secretary Pritzker Speaks at the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board Meeting about the Administration’s Travel and Tourism Agenda

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today participated in a discussion about the Administration’s travel and tourism agenda at the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (Board) meeting. The Board, established in 2003, serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. Its members, who serve two-year terms, represent a broad cross-section of the industry, including transportation services, financial services, and hotels and restaurants, as well as a mix of other small and large firms from across the country.

During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker spoke about the administration’s progress towards achieving its national goal for travel and tourism, which is to increase American jobs by welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. Last year alone, a record-breaking 74 million international visitors came to the United States.

Secretary Pritzker also spoke about the administration’s ongoing efforts to promote the travel and tourism sector, which are guided by the Board’s recommendations. She highlighted the agreement to expand visa validity with China as one particularly notable success. Since the new visa pact, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Following the announcement of an agreement to extend visa validity with China, the Department of Commerce organized a special session on travel and tourism during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Chicago, to ensure we are maximizing the potential of that policy change to grow our economy and create jobs.

Another priority of industry is to ensure a positive experience for international travelers at U.S. airports. A recent report released by Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson calls for a new national goal to provide the best arrival experience in the world to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security. To meet this new goal and create an effective best arrival experience, the Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security have established a joint Task Force, led by the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Deputy Secretary of the department of Homeland Security, to lead the process and ensure accountability. The Board will make recommendations to Secretary Pritzker regarding the Task Force priorities and initiatives.

Another recommendation focuses on infrastructure. To achieve the national goal of attracting 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, there must be world-class infrastructure to attract tourism, serve current and future travelers, and remain a top destination. The Department of Commerce will provide input to the Department of Transportation as it develops its 30-year framework for Transportation needs to ensure that its equities are fully represented.

Secretary Pritzker also referenced the priorities for the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget, which will include $2 million to increase the sample size of the Survey of International Air Travelers. In addition, the Commerce Department is working with the State Department to develop tourism specific country plans for the top 10 overseas travel and tourism markets.

As a result of the meeting, the Board will be assessing its priority recommendations, for actions that will have the greatest impact during the next two years of the administration.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Sunday, 15 February 2015

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