Despite sanctions, ties with Russia to flourish

Consul general sees massive untapped trade potential in every area

Usman Hanif March 16, 2023
Promotion of exports by tapping new markets and expanding the export basket by reducing trade barriers is the ultimate way forward. Photo; File


Russian Federation Consul General in Karachi Andrey V Fedorov has said that despite the imposition of western sanctions, collaboration and partnership between Russia and Pakistan are set to grow and flourish.

Speaking at a meeting during his visit to Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the envoy stressed that there was a massive untapped potential in almost every area of trade partnership between Russia and Pakistan.

“Current high-level bilateral ties will be sustained and true potential will be realised,” he emphasised.

“Pakistan, like other countries, can engage in trade with Russia in other than the US currency and we can even pay them in UAE dirham like the way India is doing,” suggested Employers Federation of Pakistan President Ismail Suttar in comments to The Express Tribune. “This way, Pakistan can save some petro-dollars for other imports.”

Highlighting the areas of cooperation, the consul general said that although bilateral trade was mainly concentrated in commodities, there was a huge potential in other sectors as well, particularly the energy sector.

Furthermore, “Pakistan produces high-quality leather and sports goods and has a huge potential in the information technology sector. It is a major player in the production of pharmaceutical products and surgical instruments, which are the best in the world.”

Expressing Moscow’s keenness to develop trade and economic cooperation, he said that 2023 marked 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations and during all these years, there were ups and downs but recently bilateral ties had strengthened.

As a result, “in 2022, Russia’s exports to Pakistan registered a significant growth of 38.6%, as compared to 2021.” Foreign ministers of the two countries, in a recent meeting, also expressed their willingness to enhance cooperation in a wide range of areas including energy, fight against terrorism, trade and economy, humanitarian needs, culture and education.

The consul general was fairly optimistic about enhancing bilateral cooperation. “When friends meet at the negotiation table, a lot of agreements can be reached. What we need is just wishes and will from both sides,” he added.

“Pakistan and Russia must enhance trade for mutual benefit with open arms,” remarked Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) President Zulfikar Thaver. He noted that Pakistan could import oil and energy from Russia and in exchange it could export leather goods, surgical instruments, cutlery, sports goods, fans, light engineering products, general merchandise and kinnow.

Thaver was of the view that Pakistan must not take into consideration the United States’ rivalry with Russia in its ties with Moscow. “Even Saudi Arabia and Iran have revived their diplomatic ties, indicating that diplomatic liberties are welcome and trade diplomacy is being promoted around the globe.”

Speaking on the occasion, KCCI President Mohammed Tariq Yousuf stated that despite friendly relations between the two countries, trade had remained much below potential.

In the first seven months of current fiscal year, Pakistan’s exports to Russia dropped by 45% to around $45 million compared to $82.34 million last year, “which is a serious concern”.

He noted that Pakistan was close to reaching an agreement with Russia for the import of crude oil and petroleum products at discounted rates.

Energy supplies at 40-50% discount, if agreed, could reshape Pakistan-Russia trade and bilateral relationship to a greater extent, he remarked, adding that the agreement was very critical for Pakistan’s economic growth, which could meet part of the energy needs and create a breathing space.

Arif Habib Commodities CEO Ahsan Mehanti was of the opinion that a Pakistan-Russia energy deal could be beneficial for trade between the two countries.

“Trade in common currencies for energy and commodities can result in bilateral trade of billions of dollars. Breakthrough in business can be expected with a relaxed visa regime and free trade agreement.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2023.

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