Monday, April 6, 2009

Pakistan to promote trade and investment with Central Asian countries

Realizing the Pakistan's geo-strategic position of Pakistan, the authorities in Pakistan are trying to capitalizing on the exploring new avenues for trade and investment in the region, as it is vital for boosting the competitiveness of Pakistan’s economy,

It is imperative to further develop the trade corridors (from south to north i.e. Arabian Sea to China) and to create trade linkages with Central Asian Republics, which are growing emerging economies. Another trade corridor of west to east i.e. Afghanistan/Iran to India is also under consideration.

TDAP and CSF plan to have a series of such interactions with the stakeholders, with the first held in Lahore and the last to be held in Islamabad, and is part of TDAP-CSF’s ongoing efforts to open up trade and investment opportunities in the region as well as in the Central Asian Republics.

Currently there is a dearth of information available to the businesses and exporters on opportunities in the Central Asian Region. TDAP wants to raise the awareness to develop export potential to the Central Asian Republics and this in turn could extent to other regional states as well.

In Mr. Shah 's view this is the first step towards addressing awareness as well as work towards establishing a Pakistan-Central Asia Task Force which could provide an effective mechanism for monitoring the implementation of existing and new Pakistan-Central Asian trade agreements.

The seminar was also addressed by Mr. Shaukat Ali Khan, Commercial Counselor, at the Pakistani Embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan, who briefed participants on the commercial, investment and trade opportunities available in that country. Appreciating the opportunity presented by TDAP-CSF and the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Khan said there was a vast variety of opportunities present in the Central Asian states and Pakistan was best suited to tap into them due to its geographical proximity and that trade in fruit, vegetables, leather goods, pharmaceuticals, electronics, sports goods, surgical goods etc was a very real possibility. He said the Central Asian countries were consumer markets and that only China and Turkey could provide any kind of competition in the markets Pakistan had an advantage in.

Establishing a business in the Central Asian countries, and in particular Kazakhstan, is not so difficult as the procedures and registration fees are nominal.

The cross-border trade and investment is one of the key factors that Pakistan needs to concentrate to improve its exports’ competitiveness while increasing the overall volume of trade and investment. This in turn will lead to new job creation in various sectors of economy. The Central Asian states provide Pakistan with an easily accessible large market. Suitable transit trade rules will help Pakistan easily export agricultural products including fruits, vegetables and other food items such as seafood to various Central Asian states.

Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic has been determined that there are two potential trade routes – the trade corridor through Afghanistan; and the Karakoram highway. The option of trade through Afghanistan route is largely impractical under the current security scenario. However, Pakistan has very good access to Central Asian market through the Karakoram highway via China and the Kyrgyz Republic with a transit time of around 32 hours from Islamabad to Almaty. This can substantially increase the volume of trade between Pakistan and Central Asian markets which at the moment is negligible while helping these countries ensure greater product and market diversification. Enhanced trade and investment ties with Central Asian republics will expeditiously pave the way for Pakistan to become a hub of greater region-wide economic cooperation.

Pakistan is in the process of establishing the Pakistan-Central Asia Task Force would be made up of four members (two from the public sector and two from the private sector) of each of the member countries. The initial member countries would be Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. The Task Force would also be open to other Central Asian states, namely Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to join.