Pakistan’s new Ambassador to the United States, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, dismissed the impact of “FATF Gray List” on Pakistan, affirmed that Pakistan enjoys strong ties with the US and claimed that large US companies may be investing into Pakistan within the next 6-9 months. Many may have learnt from him, for the first time, that Exon Mobil has already signed a deal with the Italian giant ENI for deep sea exploration inside Pakistani waters.
Ali Jehangir was speaking to David Westin and Sherry Ahn on Bloomberg’s leading program, “Bloomberg Markets: Balance of Power”. Responding to questions he rejected that Pakistan is negotiating with the Trump Administration for any military Aid, however he admitted that both countries are in series of discussions on achieving peace in Afghanistan which he described as a “Big Agenda Item” in addition to discussions on economic and trade matters.
Sherry Ahn pointed out that US has grown close to India and Pakistan is getting closer to China. Ambassador Siddiqui reminded her that Pakistan always had a close relationship with China, it certainly has a development program going on with China but every country maintains multiple relationships and Pakistan does not view US relations with India with any specific lens.
Pakistani Telecoms all foreign owned Ambassador Siddiqui, with background in corporate leadership, displayed his strength in business matters by invoking new concepts in easy terms. Responding to David Westin’s question: as to what the US can do to advance relations with Pakistan; he explained that Pakistan a nation of 200 million plus, with its vast energy and telecom markets, is an attractive investment destination for US companies but in the past two decades most investment in Pakistan has flowed in from the European and Middle Eastern firms.
Ambassador pointed out that while few US companies have been active in Pakistan the profit of Pepsi (a US beverage giant) in Pakistan far exceed that of its profits in India. He added that Pakistan is a uniquely open market in the world where all four large telecom companies are foreign owned; referring towards China Mobile, Telenor, Jazz and Ufone he reminded his American viewers on Bloomberg that Pakistan’s largest telecom giants are all owned by Chinese, Norwegian, Singaporean and UAE origin companies. What he did not mention was that Norwegian telecom, Telenor, with second largest share in Pakistani market after Jazz (a combination that arose out of Mobilink and Warid) left India in sheer frustration after Indian bureaucracy and “Red Tapism” made its progress difficult.
Pakistan largest Gas Importer, US largest Gas Exporter: Ambassador Siddiqui pointed out, in terms of potential economic relations with the US, that Pakistan has emerged as one of the largest gas importer and the US is emerging as the largest gas and LNG exporter. He claimed that he is in discussions with the US companies and hoped that within six to nine months large US corporations may be heading towards Pakistan; he pointed out that Exon Mobil, one of the largest US concerns, has already signed a deal with the Italian giant, ENI, for deep sea exploration in Pakistani waters. And US corporation, Proctor & Gamble, active in Pakistani markets, is now opening up a new diaper factory.
Business is definitely ambassador’s strength. He assured his viewers that Pakistan was on an economic growth trajectory with a 5.5% growth level recorded this year, and reiterated that data reveals that post 9/11 militancy is now 80% down providing a secure environment for business development and investments.
Responding to Sherry Ahn’s assertion that inclusion in FATF gray list will impact Pakistani economy, he pointed out that Pakistan had remained there in the past and then successfully made its way out after fulfilling requirements; now FATF has added new requirements, Pakistan has agreed to implement these in 15 months and will make its way out. He rejected the notion that FATF listing will have any serious impact on Pakistani economy.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry (MOFA) had earlier ruled out chances of Pakistan being blacklisted by the FATF. (Black List is the stage after gray list, and in past, 2011-12, Pakistan had been shortly on Black List as well, through few remember) Nevertheless, on June 28, MOFA acknowledged that unless Pakistan takes adequate measures to avert the crises, the country could face financial problems. Ambassador asserted on Bloomberg, mainly a business platform for US companies, that Pakistan has agreed a 15 month time table for meeting new FATF requirements and there is no reason why it won’t successfully implement these and find its way out of the gray list
Siddique -an economics graduate from New York’s Cornell University – said that his main focus after assuming the office in Washington is to mend and promote economic ties with the United States. His rhetoric was business centered and perhaps an economic relationship between the people of USA and Pakistan is the only way to nurture this otherwise strained relationship.
Ambassador Ali Jehangir is the son of renowned businessman and banker Jahangir Siddiqui and served previously as a special assistant to Prime Minister, Shahid Khakkan Abbassi. His political opponents had lodged or reignited several cases against him and his family businesses in courts to frustrate his nomination as Ambassador to the US and within establishment there were concerns if he would be able to present Pakistan’s case in the US- given his youth and lack of diplomatic experiences. His appearance on the US media however display his strengths and his ability to work with the Trump Administration. On a question by David Westin that if he considers current administration indifferent or hostile towards Pakistan, he responded that he finds no hostility though this administration has too much on its plate but then it also realizes that it has to work with Pakistan to achieve peace in Afghanistan – a goal both sides share.