Advisor Aziz, Minister Asif, Ambassador Jilani, Mrs. Jilani, members of the Pakistani delegation; Ambassador Dobbins, Ambassador Olson, and all of you who have supported this strategic dialogue process: it is a pleasure for me to join you tonight on this wonderful occasion.
Advisor Aziz, Minister Asif, on behalf of Secretary Kerry, thank you for making this dialogue a priority, and for coming to Washington for our discussions.
Ambassador and Mrs. Jilani, thank you for being such gracious hosts, and for welcoming us to the beautiful Pakistani Embassy. Mr. Ambassador, please allow me to take this opportunity to welcome you and your family to Washington in your new role as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States. I look forward to working with you to further the ties between our two nations.
Today was the first ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue we have held in over three years. Our successful discussions reflect the spirit of mutual respect which characterizes our work in this forum between our two governments.
As Prime Minister Sharif has said, we must build on convergence, and wherever there is divergence, we must work to try to minimize and remove it. This dialogue can help do just that.
Looking back, today’s discussions were built on the successful visit of Prime Minister Sharif to Washington last October, and the visit by Secretary Kerry to Islamabad last August. Looking forward, the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue is a symbol of our strengthening ties across a range of mutual interests.
As you know, energy issues were part of the discussions today, as they are a key focus area of our bilateral relationship. The U.S. is committed to working with Pakistan to address energy shortfalls, especially as Pakistan undertakes tough reforms. I am pleased that the U.S. has already assisted in adding over 1,000 megawatts of power to Pakistan’s grid, and providing power to over 16 million people. Following November’s Energy Working Group meeting, we have now agreed on 12 specific areas for energy sector cooperation to build on that progress.
Today we also discussed Pakistan’s economy, and specifically the expansion of business links both bilaterally and regionally.
The U.S. commends the tough choices that Prime Minister Sharif and his Cabinet have already made to reinvigorate Pakistan’s economy. Going forward, your government’s commitment to carrying out necessary reforms will help tap the enormous potential of Pakistan’s people.
Bilateral trade and investment are the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Pakistan is a huge emerging market for U.S. businesses and the U.S. is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. In 2012, that two-way trade was worth more than $5 billion.
But together there is much more we can and will do to deepen this economic relationship. We see Pakistan’s prosperity as good for the Pakistani people, good for Americans, and good for the region. We have repeatedly learned that countries gain more from economic cooperation than from isolation. Central and South Asia are among the least economically interconnected regions in the world. This means there is great potential to develop mutually beneficial economic ties. In this regard, we encourage steps to increase regional trade, including with India. Steps that increase regional trade support the New Silk Road vision of an economically integrated region.
Pakistan and the United States agree that a peaceful, stable, independent and united Afghanistan is in the interest of the region. In support of this joint vision, the United States has built and improved key roads in the region, including the four major trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As reflected in our discussions today, economics and security are closely intertwined. We recognize the terrible price, both in terms of lives and resources, that the people of Pakistan have paid at the hands of terrorists and militants. The United States also has suffered greatly from terrorism. We have a shared interest in continuing to seek avenues for cooperation in the security realm. We have already taken important steps together, including efforts to counter improvised explosive devices. These steps have saved thousands of Pakistani and U.S. lives.
Secretary Kerry -- both in his former role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now as Secretary of State -- has been deeply committed to developing and strengthening the important relationship between our two countries. Under his leadership, we will continue our efforts to find new ways to jointly build an even stronger relationship. Together, we can build a more prosperous and secure future for the Pakistani people, the American people, and the broader region of South and Central Asia.
Thank you again Advisor Aziz, Minister Asif, Ambassador Jilani, and the delegations and supporters of both nations, for this wonderful evening. On behalf of the Secretary, we appreciate the hard work that went into making the Strategic Dialogue a success, and we look forward to advancing our shared interests in the years to come.