Bangladesh High Commissioner stresses tapping Pak-BD trade potential

LAHORE (APP): High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Pakistan Muhammad Ruhul Alam Siddiqui Sunday called for focusing on the untapped trade potential between the two countries.
During a meeting with business community at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry here, he cited global economic factors, inflation and the ability to import goods as reasons why the trade volume between Pakistan and Bangladesh had not exceeded the US$1 billion mark.
The high commissioner acknowledged that Bangladesh imports more from Pakistan than it exports, particularly textile raw materials, given Bangladesh’s position as the second-largest exporter of ready-made garments in the world. However, he noted a significant reduction in Bangladesh’s exports this year due to global factors. Similarly, Pakistan’s ability to import has been affected by its current account deficit and global economic factors.
Highlighting the importance of regional trade, the high commissioner expressed his belief that SAARC had not been successful in harnessing the benefits of trading in the region compared to ASEAN and the EU. He lamented the underdevelopment of regional trade in South Asia and stressed the need to explore avenues for mutually beneficial trade.
Addressing the challenges, posed by the global factors, the HC called for concerted efforts to achieve a win-win situation in trade between the two countries. Recognising Pakistan’s potential, he encouraged the LCCI to form a delegation to visit Bangladesh and explore areas of interest for investment.
During his tenure, the high commissioner observed minimal trade disputes between the two countries, citing their shared characteristics and commonalities. He urged focus on advantageous sectors, such as food processing, where Pakistan possesses expertise. He also expressed Bangladesh’s willingness to facilitate investment in this sector through special incentives.
The Bangladeshi HC further mentioned that his country, which previously imported fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine, was now prepared to import the commodity from Pakistan. With both countries acknowledging the potential for increased trade and cooperation, efforts were underway to strengthen economic ties and explore new avenues of collaboration.
The LCCI president said that other than India, both Pakistan and Bangladesh were key members of SAARC in terms of the size of their economies, so it was imperative for them to find ways to utilise the platform for enhancing their share in the regional trade. He said that although the balance of two-way trade was heavily in favour of Pakistan, at present the volume of bilateral trade was still below the actual potential.
Considering the size of global trade of Bangladesh that was around US$129 billion (total exports US$63.4 billion and total imports US$65.6 billion), they need to make some concentrated efforts to enhance the present level of bilateral trade.
The LCCI president said that according to the State Bank of Pakistan statistics, the two-way trade between Pakistan and Bangladesh was around US$800 million during 2021-22. Pakistan’s imports from Bangladesh were to the tune of US$77 million while our exports to Bangladesh ranged to US$721 million. “We expect better trade figures this year as during the first 10 months of current fiscal year (July 2022-April 2023), our exports to Bangladesh stood at US$644 million while our imports from Bangladesh were US$66 million,” he added.
Kashif Anwar said that Pakistan was a major supplier of cotton fabrics, cement, yarn, carbonates, vacuum pumps, Synthetic organic colouring matter, leather and other textile items etc. to Bangladesh. On the other hand, the major imports from Bangladesh included jute, unmanufactured tobacco, synthetic staple fibres, Hydrogen peroxide, Yarn of jute, cotton waste, tea and slide gasteners etc. There was a need to focus on exploring new avenues for enhancing trade so that the trade volume could be taken well beyond the current figure of around US$2 billion.
He said that Pakistan had huge potential of exporting various items to Bangladesh which were being imported from other countries. For example, the fabrics imports of Bangladesh were around US$5.5 billion, coal US$1.2 billion, wheat US$697 million, sugar US$462 million, synthetic filament yarn US$417 million and parts of footwear US$270 million etc. Pakistan could certainly enhance its exports to Bangladesh in these sectors.
Kashif Anwar said that other potential areas where Pakistan and Bangladesh could enhance economic cooperation and trade were Information Technology services, iron and steel products, surgical Instruments, processed food, plastic products, automotive parts, edible fruits, sports goods, pharmaceutical products and chemicals etc.
He said that there were also tremendous opportunities for the investors in Bangladesh to invest in various sectors in Pakistan through Joint Ventures (JVs) including tourism, agriculture, value added textiles, construction sector and energy sector especially renewable energy.
The LCCI President said that in order to establish productive economic relations, there was a need to address all the issues. For this purpose, efforts needed to be employed to facilitate frequent interaction between the business sectors through organizing business delegations.
Honorary Consul General of Bangladesh Qazi Humayun Fareed and Fareeha Younis EC member also spoke on the occasion.