Commonwealth Business Forum spells new hope
Pakistan for the first time participated in the Commonwealth Business Forum organised by the Commonwealth Business Council and a special session was held in Perth on Pakistan`s Potential: Opportunities for Trade and Investment.
With focus on regional trade and investment, a high-profile Pakistani delegation presented a bundle of projects before the 54-nation Commonwealth. The forum hosted around 2,000 delegates from all over the world. Pakistan received favourable vibes to market its products. Business giants, representing 80 percent of Pakistan’s trade and industry attended the forum.
Trade Development Authority (TDAP) chief executive Tariq Puri chaired the special session with Mian Mansha, chairman of Nishat Group and Razzak Dawood, chairman of Descon group, were panelists of the session.
This initiative of the Pakistan government was commended throughout as Arif Zaman, Commonwealth Business Council’s Advisor on South Asia and Corporate Governance, has said Pakistan took the opportunity quite seriously for the first time in the Commonwealth’s history.
Tariq Puri chaired a special session on ‘Pakistan’s Potential: Opportunities for Trade and Investment’. He highlighted the trade potential between Pakistan and other Commonwealth member states and stated that our exports to the Commonwealth countries are US $3.63 billion while our imports are US $7 billion. However, the 173 export products to the Commonwealth countries have a market share of just a 0.3 percent of range of products which constitute 55 percent of Commonwealth nations’ total imports worth US $1.18 trillion. He said that Pakistan could increase its share by adding value to its supply chain and also emphasized on the need for product diversification.
Puri said the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ has ranked Pakistan as number 1 in South Asia. Discussing the Agriculture sector; he said Pakistan is the second largest buffalo meat producer, the second largest buffalo milk producer, the third largest cottonseed producer, the third largest chillies producer, the fourth largest goat meat producer, the fifth largest mango producer and the seventh largest wheat producer but it has not been able to optimize its strengths and has not captured a larger share in the global processed food market. He also emphasized on the fact that Pakistan has the fifth largest coal reserves in the world and it is also bestowed with an abundance of other natural resources.
Puri also highlighted the need for foreign investors to bring the requisite technology to Pakistan through mutually beneficial entrepreneurial arrangements and invited them to invest in the potential projects. Minerals, stones and agriculture sector projects came under major focus, particularly to spur value addition in commodities such as corn, rice and wheat. The forum also showcased telecom, insurance and other businesses in the services sector for investment.
Mian Mansha said that national and multinational companies working in Pakistan are satisfied with the conducive environment being provided by the Government and that the rate of return on investment and the profitability ratio are substantial. Razzak Dawood also added that policies of the Government of Pakistan are encouraging and that the private sector is thriving. Mansha and Dawood, both reposed their confidence in the fact that opening of trade between India and Pakistan will attract more investment in the region, especially for Pakistan.
Significantly, deals of around $10 billion were finalized at the CBF platform. According to Tariq Puri, the aim of participation at the forum was to fulfill the expectations of what others want to know about Pakistan. “In countries where currencies are firmer and cost of doing business is high, Pakistan has got a visible edge. All we need is to boost productivity and hone our skills. Human and natural resources are where we get our strengths from.”
The significance of the Commonwealth forum for Pakistan was also affirmed by Arif Zaman, “Pakistan first needs to be heard, understood and then the opportunity will come its way.” Zaman said people are quite receptive to the opportunity in the Commonwealth. Many medium to large corporations are owned by women and they will have their voice heard at the conference. Likewise, the Youth Forum will provide an opportunity for young people to interact, so will the business and civil society forums.
Tariq Iqbal Puri said regional cooperation would be the main driver of growth and the major area of focus for the Trade Development Authority at the moment