The United Kingdom wants to increase bilateral trade with Pakistan from the existing £3 billion to £10 billion to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, said UK Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi and Trade Director for Pakistan Mike Nithavrianakis.
Talking to the business community during his visit to the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Friday, he said that improvement in bilateral trade and economic relations between the UK and Pakistan would bring progress and prosperity to both countries.
He said that about 5,000 UK companies were doing business in the UAE, but only 150 companies were in Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan was a huge market of over 200 million people.
He emphasised that Pakistan should focus on addressing the issues of red tape and other bottlenecks along with ensuring a predictable and growth-oriented tax regime to attract more investors from the UK and other countries.
Nithavrianakis said that the UK was focusing on four areas for close cooperation with Pakistan which included healthcare, education, green energy and infrastructure.
He said that the UK could also cooperate with Pakistan in agriculture, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and other sectors to make its economy more competitive. He added that the UK would try to provide preferential access for Pakistani products to its market, which would further improve its exports.
Talking about export of fruits and vegetables to the UK, he said that Pakistani exporters should work on meeting UK standards to gain better penetration into its food market.
He stressed that Pakistani companies should focus on better marketing of their products as insufficient focus in that area was keeping them away from promoting exports up to their real potential.
He said that the UK had issued advisories to its citizens to encourage them to visit Pakistan.
The British deputy high commissioner assured the ICCI that he would cooperate with its delegation in trip to the UK and in connecting them with the right partners.
Also speaking on the occasion, ICCI President Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan said that there was great potential for promoting bilateral trade between Pakistan and the UK for which better connectivity between private sectors of the two sides was needed.
He said that Pakistan was expanding its industrial base through the development of Special Economic Zones and added that UK companies should explore joint venture and investment avenues in such facilities.
He was of the view that close cooperation between UK and Pakistani companies would help in producing value added products and improving exports.
He specifically pointed out that “we are not seeing our top agricultural products like mangoes, apples, oranges, bananas, etc on shelves of main supermarkets of the UK including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Morrison, etc.”
Those Pakistani companies which were supplying A-grade products should be connected with British firms to enhance their exports, he said.
Khan cited agriculture, industry, IT, mining and tourism as potential areas of cooperation between Pakistan and the UK.
He said that the ICCI would connect the British High Commission with [email protected] to shortlist at least 200 Pakistani companies which could provide software products and services to the UK.
The ICCI official added that they would also try to connect local businesses with UK companies to bring their franchises to Pakistan. He said that many UK companies in Pakistan were doing better business as compared to some other countries and more should come to capitalise on the emerging business opportunities in Pakistani market.
He said that the ICCI would consider taking a business delegation to the UK and British High Commission should facilitate in making the visit successful.
Other officials, present on the occasion, said that the UK should streamline its visa process for the Pakistani business community, which would help in developing strong business linkages between the two countries.