WASHINGTON  - Emphasizing the importance of private sectors’ role towards full realization of Pakistan-US relations potential, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has asked the American entrepreneurs to benefit from tremendous investment opportunities in Pakistan.

Speaking to members of US-Pakistan Business Council at the US Chamber of Commerce, the finance minister said it is clear that the two countries would have to move beyond governmental interaction and facilitate the private sector, particularly in trade and investment areas, to bolster bilateral ties.

Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman also attended the interaction between the visiting finance minister and American business leaders.

Dr Shaikh apprised the American business leaders of the “extraordinarily liberal investment regime” and the immense business prospects that Pakistan offers.

The finance minister said from his experience in several countries around the world, he can safely say that Pakistan’s most liberal investment regime has brought phenomenal returns to foreign investors, who can invest as much as they want, can take out as much capital as they want. Pakistan, he said, is open to foreign investment in all fields.

“I want to tell you the untold story of Pakistan —- Pakistan is a great destination for investment” he said, referring to Islamabad’s hopeful economic performance in the face of odds including high oil prices, Afghan war unrest, care for millions of Afghan refugees forgotten by the international community in the past, global contraction and the high economic cost the country has paid since joining the fight against terror.

In this context, the finance minister recounted a host of measures that the democratic government introduced to stem the economic slump it had inherited. He said despite epic floods of 2010, rocketing oil prices and global contraction, Pakistan has been able to withstand pressures and improve on its performance in some key areas with check on inflation, rise in exports, revenue generation, a strict austerity drive, adherence to reforms in the face of difficulties and maintenance of comfortable foreign exchange reserve levels.

He said rise in exports, 30 percent last year and expected 6 percent this year, and an unprecedented inflow of remittances by overseas Pakistanis have eased pressures on the economy and strengthened reserves. The finance minister expected remittances to cross $ 13 billion mark this year.

“Our GDP growth is expected to be 4 percent this fiscal year. Pakistan has the potential to grow at 6 to 7 percent in the next couple of years.

The demographic dividend with young workforce and central location of the country in the region will be helpful.”

Miles Young, Chairman US-Pakistan Business Council, earlier, welcomed the Pakistani finance minister and Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who is honorary member of the Council.

The American business leader expressed members’ support for strong trade and economic relations between the United States and Pakistan.

He said despite challenges, the Council is “optimistic about (business) opportunities” in Pakistan. Young, who is worldwide chief executive officer of Ogilvy and Mathar, expressed the Council’s backing for TIFA dialogue as well as efforts towards conclusion of a bilateral investment treaty between the two countries. He also appreciated Islamabad’s efforts to expand trade with regional neighbours, particularly with India.