UAE, Saudi Arabia keen on investing in Pakistan

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The UAE and Saudi Arabia are set to significantly expand their investment in a wide range of sectors and grow trade with Pakistan. These measures will help boost Pakistan’s economy in various sectors.

High-level negotiations have been held by the top leadership of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to boost trade and investment in the country. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was closely involved in these talks.

All three countries are now drawing up their final plans, high-level sources in Pakistan’s ministries of finance, industry, commerce and the Planning Commission told Khaleej Times.

The UAE ambassador to Pakistan, Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salim Al Zaabi, briefed the top business organisation in Pakistan – the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) – and said the UAE government is keen to boost bilateral trade with Pakistan through exploring opportunities in various economic sectors.

“Both countries have undertaken work on a framework to boost trade and investment and to avoid double taxation,” Al Zaabi said.

He asked the FPCCI and Pakistan businessmen and entrepreneurs to participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai in which more than 100 countries will participate. Around 1.4 million Pakistanis reside in the UAE. He said the UAE always supports Pakistan “when it faces crisis”.

Zubair Tufail, FPCCI’s former president, said the UAE is among Pakistan’s top five trade partners. Annual bilateral trade volume stands at more than $8 billion. But trade is still below the potential of these two countries.

“We welcome UAE investors to invest in Pakistan where a large number of sectors are open for investment,” Tufail said. The industries range from oil and gas exploration and marketing to textiles, power generation, metals, fruits and vegetables and halal meat. Investors can repatriate their entire investment and profits if they desire to.
“Security and the energy situation have greatly improved in recent months, making Pakistan an ideal and high-profit venue for foreign investors,” he said.

Waheed Ahmad, vice-president of FPCCI, said Pakistan’s agriculture sector has the potential to cater to the UAE’s food requirements on a big scale. “It is already doing so as far as food, fruits, vegetables and halal meat are concerned,” he said.

Owais Leghari, Minister for Power, told Khaleej Times: “We plan to add 10,000 megawatts of power during the current year. It will ensure round-the-clock electricity supply, which will enable 24-hour operations of industries. Power will also be available to current and future foreign investors who come to Pakistan to establish new industrial units. That should ensure full-time industrial activity and no shutdown due to power outages.”

A top businessman and industrialist, Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, proposed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia should provide assistance to Pakistan in order to “help us enlarge our exports”.

“These arrangements should include signing preferential trade agreements and official approval to export cost-competitive Pakistani products to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

The plans for greater trade and investment initiatives will be finalised during a joint ministerial conference between the UAE and Pakistan, Ambassador Al Zaabi said. A similar ministerial conference will be held between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, officials said.

Pakistan-Saudi trade and investment relations are growing. Prime Ninister Abbasi and Majed Abdullah Al Qasabi, Saudi Minister for Commerce and Investment, took several important decisions last week. The talks were held during Al Qasabi’s visit to Islamabad with his 35-member Saudi delegation. It was the 11th Pakistan-Saudi Joint Ministerial Commission.

The decisions, a government statement said, covered “establishment of a working group for export of halal food from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, Saudi investment in the construction of Pakistan’s South-North gas pipeline, accelerated negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty and fast-track negotiation to finalise a memorandum of understanding between the central banks of the two countries, which will enhance and strengthen bilateral economic relations”.

The ministerial meeting also decided that Saudi Arabia would set up a training institute in Pakistan to help meet Saudi human resource requirements. “More than 9.6 million Pakistani workers are based in foreign countries. Of these, 96 per cent live in the GCC member countries,” said Pakistan’s Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment.

Saudi Arabia-based Pakistanis send home around $6 billion in remittances annually, which is nearly 30 per cent of global remittances worth around $20 billion. But the recent oil price crisis has led to a decline in remittances for the last two years, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis reported last week. The meeting also decided to hold the first single country exhibition of Pakistan in the second half of 2018.

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