FAISALABAD: British trade minister would arrive on a visit to Pakistan next week to discuss bilateral trade and issues pertaining to fresh UK investments as more companies are planning to pour capital in the wake of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) programme, announced British High Commissioner Thomas Drew on Thursday.
Speaking to the business community at the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), Drew emphasised that though Pakistan had enjoyed long-standing friendly relations with the UK, but these were not truly reflected in their economic affairs.
He said the UK was extending best possible facilities in the field of education and vocational training, which would certainly give a quantum jump to economic activities in Pakistan.
Citing what he believed was the dynamic role of British Council, Drew said it was extending lucrative and productive scholarships to train Pakistani students in modern scientific subjects, which would have a salutary impact on the overall economy of the country.
The UK is also cooperating with the Punjab government in the field of education to bring a comprehensive and positive socio-economic change in the province. He acknowledged that Faisalabad, which was the second biggest city of Punjab, was playing a key role in overall development of the country.
Turning to Brexit, Drew said no doubt, the UK was quitting the European Union, but it was not leaving Europe. “This situation has sparked new challenges and we are trying to handle these issues prudently.”
He noted that many UK companies were already working in Pakistan while many more were planning to make new investments, particularly in the wake of CPEC. He assured businessmen that the British government would fully cooperate in bridging the gap between business communities of the two countries.
FCCI President Engineer Muhammad Saeed Sheikh was of the view that trade between the two countries was progressing, but still it was not up to the mark and left much to be desired.
Bilateral trade volume in 2016 stood at $2.18 billion where Pakistan’s exports were worth $1.557 billion against imports of $0.610 billion. The balance of trade was in favour of Pakistan. He underscored the need for further strengthening trade and investment links between Pakistan and the UK in order to take bilateral trade above $3 billion as early as possible.
Saying that Faisalabad’s economy had its origin in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Sheikh sought the UK government’s help in improving the business environment and increasing domestic and international investment in SMEs for economic development.
He said Pakistan’s economy was showing positive macro-economic indicators and “improved economic and security conditions demand that international investors take benefit of trade and investment opportunities as Pakistan occupies a strategic position in the region”.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2017.