Ambassador of Belgium Peter Claes has said Belgian companies are interested in investing in a host of areas including agriculture, ports and infrastructure development and oil and gas exploration in Pakistan, but investment is not forthcoming because of security concerns.
“New foreign investment is not coming to Pakistan due to security reasons and negative perception of the country around the globe that should improve,” Claes told businessmen gathered at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Saying that Belgium and Pakistan have cordial political relationship, he pointed out that bilateral trade was not in line with the existing potential between the two countries. He assured the businessmen that as an ambassador he would highlight all the strengths of Pakistan before the authorities in Brussels.
Being aware of Pakistan’s energy needs, he said Belgium could offer assistance in building LPG and LNG terminals as well as oil and gas exploration.
He suggested that after stability in Afghanistan Pakistani products could easily reach Central Asian Republics that will help improve regional trade.
He advised Belgian businessmen to trust Pakistani counterparts in planning their business trips as the situation on the ground was different from what portrayed in the media.
For enhancing trade, economic integration and exchange of delegations were imperative. And for that, the Belgian embassy was working to streamline business visa procedures, he said.
He was of the view that developing countries should accord importance to the economy as the backbone of the country. “Economic development is crucial to eliminating extremism,” he said.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Muhammad Haroon Agar, while describing Belgium as the capital of Europe and the centre of European politics, said Brussels should support Pakistan in its efforts to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union.
“For Pakistan, Belgian support is imperative to achieve the GSP Plus status (which gives developing countries preferential access to EU markets),” he said.
Praising Belgium’s consistent support for the grant of Autonomous Trade Preferences to Pakistan by the EU in the wake of 2010 floods, he underlined the need for developing close ties between European countries and Pakistan to get mutual benefits.
He offered help in expanding Belgium’s trade with central Asian states, China, India and the Middle East and at the same time sought its assistance in expanding Pakistan’s trade with European nations.
Trade between Pakistan and Belgium remains healthy. In 2012, Pakistan exported goods worth $420 million while its imports amounted to $354 million.
Major export goods were textile products, cotton, articles of leather, cereals and sports goods. Import goods included iron and steel, machinery, pharmaceutical products, chemical products, electrical and electronic equipment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2013.
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