Mar 12 - 18, 20

Lately, President Asif Ali Zardari has sought help of United Arab Emirates (UAE) for entering into Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, which would pave the way for increased commercial activities between Pakistan and the Gulf countries.

This was told by President to Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al- Nahyan, foreign minister of UAE, who recently visited Pakistan.

The one-on-one meeting of UAE Foreign Minister with the President was followed by a delegation level meeting. A wide range of bilateral issues were discussed during the meeting. During the delegation level meeting, a whole spectrum of Pak- UAE bilateral relations was discussed. President, during meeting, highlighted the existing cordial and friendly relationship with UAE. He said Pakistan values its bonds of fraternity with UAE and is keen to expand cooperation in various fields.

He also emphasized further strengthening of trade relations. The meeting between the foreign ministers of the UAE and Pakistan confirmed the continued strong alliance and cooperation between the two countries. Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister, met his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, at the 10th session of the Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). The discussions focused on ways to further enhance economic and commercial ties between the two countries.

Among the objectives of the event is also Pakistan's aim for garnering support as it negotiates FTA with the GCC. Shaikh Abdullah assured Pakistan of the UAE's full support to Pakistan in reaching this agreement and stated that the UAE valued its relations with Pakistan due to the two countries' long and deep brotherly relations. One of the main missions of the Pakistani minister during her visit to the UAE was to encourage investment in her country, in addition to highlighting the numerous benefits and opportunities for UAE businesses interested in investing. Trade between the two countries continues to increase, inching close to US$7 billion.

Lately, Ras Al Khaimah, one of seven emirates of UAE, has also got approval from the Government of Pakistan to start the new airline service, 'RAK Airline' from three destinations in Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. One of the outstanding achievements was the first consignment of Pakistani mango that reached Japan through the Dubai based air service. A mega event 'Magnificent 7 was held in November 2011 at Karachi Expo Center. This was the first ever event held for further boosting trade between Pakistan and UAE.

In the important event, around 70 companies from UAE participated while almost 90 businessmen belonging to various sectors also attend the exposition where they met their Pakistani counterparts. Businessmen, exhibitors, officials especially Miss Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE's minister for foreign trade opened the event.

The first-ever 'Magnificent 7 Expo was organized by the UAE Consulate General in Karachi. Over all, activities included comprehensive exhibition, showcasing highly promising UAE manufactured goods, conference and seminars. Exhibition not only invited eminent industry personalities but also amassed general public. Exhibition would also help to improve the image of Pakistan among the UAE business community.

Director Trade Promotion, Ministry of Foreign Trade UAE, Mohammad Nasser Hamadan, said the event has turned out to be great event as all the stalls were full of businessmen who were keen to have business with UAE companies. The response was beyond expectations as most of the companies indulged in serious negotiations with Pakistani businessmen for possible ventures. There was a lot of interest from Pakistani companies for collaboration with their UAE counterparts. Hamadan also announced that the UAE Trade Minister Sheikha Lubna had announced to make UAE Expo as an annual event in Pakistan after witnessing the overwhelming response to the event and support extended by Pakistan government and other concerned organizations.

Pakistan's major imports from the UAE comprise of crude oil, machinery, and gold. Pakistan's exports to the UAE include petroleum product, textiles, rice, leather and leather products, fruits and vegetables, sports goods, and surgical goods. The implementation of the projects initiated by the UAE in Pakistan is progressing with great commitment on both the sides.

UAE is establishing another oil refinery at Khalifa Point in Balochistan. The refinery, with 200,000 bpd output, will help meet Pakistan's growing demand for refined oil in addition to having the UAE as its market.

That said experts are of the view that Pakistan has not exploited real potential, rather India is capturing Pakistan's share. For this, only the government of Pakistan can be held responsible. Some of the policies being followed are proving counterproductive. It is on record that Pakistani Basmati rice is being sold in the Middle East as an Indian product. To some extent, Pakistani business community is also responsible for the eroding share of Pakistani in the UAE market. People having myopic vision often aim at making short-term gains, which do not allow developing long-term relationship.

Pakistani rice, mango, and kinno enjoy special attraction for the Middle East customers. However, a little carelessness in packing and abidance of health laws not only results in huge loss for the exporters but also bring bad name to country. Therefore, the government has to take the initiatives to inform Pakistani business community about laws prevalent not only in the Middle East but around the world.