FAISALABAD: Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia has not grown according to its potential due to artificial barriers, but serious efforts are being made to remove the obstacles after a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian premier Dmitry Medvedev late last year, stated Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov.
Speaking to business community at the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) on Friday, the Russian envoy pointed out that diplomatic relations between Russia and Pakistan had been deep-rooted since 1948.
“We have been contributing in a big way to the development of Pakistan,” he stressed, adding that Pakistan Steel Mills and many energy-related projects were developed with Russian cooperation.
Around 200 joint ventures have so far been formed in Pakistan in different sectors including telecommunication, engineering, construction, etc. He voiced hope cooperation between the two countries would further deepen.
Responding to a question, the ambassador said an environment conducive for trade relations would have to be created within the given framework. Acknowledging that Russian delegations generally visited Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, he said “we will try to arrange their visit to Faisalabad also”.
He suggested that business communities of the two countries should participate in international trade fairs and exhibitions in order to forge direct business-to-business (B2B) links. He also pointed out that Russia was starting work on an offshore gas pipeline in Pakistan, which would help resolve energy problems in upcountry areas.
Regarding banking channels, he emphasised that they were trying to streamline things, but Pakistan’s exporters could manage their banking affairs through the Central Bank of Russia to avoid any mishap. Besides, a branch of the National Bank of Pakistan has also been working in Moscow since January 2018.
Replying to another question, the envoy said a 20km link road between Chitral and Tajikistan could be made part of long-term planning for the region.
He asked businessmen of Faisalabad to point out specific customs-related problems so that these could be resolved at an appropriate forum.
Regarding the visa issue, he explained that generally the Russian embassy granted single or double-entry visa while multiple-entry visa was issued only on recommendation of the Russian partner of an applicant.
Speaking on the occasion, FCCI President Syed Zia Alumdar Hussain pointed out that although textile was the iconic identification of the Faisalabad city, other sectors including chemical, oil, sugar and engineering were also playing their role in overall development of the country.
Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia totalled $402.78 million in 2017. Pakistan made $144.71 million of exports while its imports from the Russian Federation were calculated at $258.01 million. The balance of trade was in favour of Russia.
The FCCI chief highlighted that Pakistan had the third largest coal reserves and fifth biggest gold and copper deposits while Punjab had a rich potential for mineral resources. He invited Russian investors to come and exploit the vast untapped potential of Punjab, particularly of Faisalabad.
“Pakistan could supply all types of textile goods such as readymade garments, home textile and knitwear products to Russian markets; there is a huge potential for enhancing bilateral trade in addition to forming joint ventures in textile, agro-product, livestock, leather goods, oil, gas, IT and tourism sectors.
Hussain suggested that Pakistan could also export kinnow and potatoes to Russia and underlined the need for forging direct links between business communities of the two countries and holding single-country exhibitions to ramp up the trade volume.
He floated a proposal for inking memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the FCCI and important chambers of Russia.
The FCCI chief also called for expediting efforts for signing a free trade agreement between the two countries, which could enhance bilateral trade manifold. “B2B meetings between Pakistan and Russia are imperative to bolster bilateral trade,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2019.