SL-Pakistan private sector steps up collaboration to boost trade, investment

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 00:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan ink several MoUs with CCC, FCCISL and individual firms
  • Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena says Govt. strongly encourages trade and investment cooperation
  • Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad opines immense potential for both economies to expand bilateral trade under FTA
  • Lack of awareness, heavy dependence on traditional export categories drawbacks of FTA
  • RCCI President expresses commitment to enhance trade ties by removing various impediments

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena
Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad
RCCI President Nadeem A. Rauf
RCCI Group Leader Sohail Altaf

Having shared a deep-rooted strong political, cultural and economic relationship for decades, Sri Lanka and Pakistan private sectors yesterday stepped up efforts to boost business and investment opportunities.

The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) of Pakistan inked a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) between the Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (CCC) and Federation of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) and few individual firms, to enhance trade ties between the two countries.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad witnessed the signings at Pakistan-Sri Lanka Business Opportunities Conference in Colombo.

“Development of strong trade and investment relationships particularly with the Asian economies is a key strategy outlined in the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ policy framework. To accelerate growth in the post-pandemic era, the Government strongly encourages trade and investment cooperation with mutual benefits,” Trade Minister Gunawardena said at the event.

The conference was organised by the RCCI in collaboration with the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka with a participation of over 100 Pakistan business representatives. 

The Trade Minister said the full potential of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) had not been utilised over the years. “Although we have maintained substantial trade numbers between the two countries, we have not been able to utilise the full potential of the FTA. Hence, there is a clear need that we need more efforts to use the FTA effectively,” he added.

Gunawardena also said Sri Lanka has diverse sectors to enhance business opportunities for Pakistan investors.

Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad said there was immense potential for both countries to expand trade under the FTA. “Sri Lanka was the first country to ink an FTA back in 2005. However, the full potential of the FTA was not reflected in the past years. Pakistan is committed to exploring the maximum capacity of the trade agreement for the mutual benefit of two friendly nations,” he added.

He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit in February paved vigorous efforts to strengthen bilateral ties with Sri Lanka.

The Acting High Commissioner invited Minister Gunawardena to undertake a visit to Pakistan at his earliest convenience, which would boost bilateral trade, joint ventures and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The political and economic stability in Pakistan, with new reforms to support sustainable development and investments, ease of doing business, global competitiveness and market access were highlighted as key prospects for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to set up factories there.

The lack of awareness, heavy dependence on traditional export categories were pointed out as drawbacks under the FTA.

The Acting High Commissioner emphasised on the need to use this forum to further strengthen the existing bilateral trade and investment linkages between the two countries and their respective private sectors.

Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka grew from $ 97 million in 2004 to $ 355 million in 2018, while Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan grew from $ 47 million in 2004 to $ 105 million in 2018, almost double over the same period. However, two-way trade is only $ 460 million despite a potential of more than $ 2 billion.  

RCCI President Nadeem A. Rauf said the FTA of the two countries could not reach its full potential due to technical disputes, whilst expressing commitment to enhancing trade relations by removing various impediments.

Being the third largest chamber in Pakistan, he said they were keen on creating synergies among regional countries. “We are keen to enhance trade through mutual cooperation and facilitation,” Rauf added.  

RCCI Group Leader Sohail Altaf said that they were exploring opportunities to expand tourism and aviation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

“Tourism is a great opportunity for the two countries to work in collaboration. We need to enhance our air connectivity through collaborative efforts and discussions in this regard have taken place at many top-ranked meetings. We want more flights to be operated between the two countries,” he said.

Pakistan High Commission Commercial Secretary Asmma Kamal made a presentation on ‘Doing Business in Sri Lanka’ and pointed out that a few Pakistani companies had already invested in agriculture, IT, textiles and construction, and real estate development in Sri Lanka. 

Investment opportunities and potential in Pakistan was presented by RIAA Chairman Usman Shaukat presented, whilst investment opportunities and potential in Sri Lanka was presented by FCCISL Secretary General Ajith D. Perera.

The conference concluded with the commitment to expand bilateral relationships between the two countries and with an invitation extended to Sri Lanka to visit Pakistan with a 100-member delegation. (CdeS)