LAHORE: Belgium is gateway to Europe and has the largest perishable handling facility; therefore, Pakistani businessmen should avail it to increase their reach-out to EU market.
These views were expressed by Ambassador of Belgium Charles Delogne while speaking at a meeting here at Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) on Tuesday. LCCI President Kashif Anwar, Senior Vice President Chaudhry Zafar Mahmood and Vice President Adnan Khalid Butt also spoke on the occasion, while Executive Committee members were also present.
The envoy said that trade between the two countries was excellent, but there was a vast scope for the expansion of mutual trade and economic ties. He said that Belgium had always supported Pakistan for GSP Plus status. He said that the role of EU Parliament is important in this regard.
He said that both countries should identify more areas for cooperation and should also introduce more tradable items to enhance mutual trade volume. He said that there should be more interaction between the business communities of the two countries to enhance trade and economic cooperation.
LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that Belgium was a key player in the European Union and international economy. Belgium was one of the six founding countries of the European Union and home to many international organizations including NATO.
The LCCI president said that Pakistan and Belgium had very cordial diplomatic relations and both the countries had been steady trading partners as well. He said that as per trade data sought from State Bank, Pakistan’s exports to Belgium increased from $584 million in 2020-21 to $716 million in 2021-22 while their imports surged from $419 million to $549 million in the same period. This essentially means that bilateral trade volume increased from around $1 billion in 2020-21 to $1.26 billion in 2021-22. He said, “We need to make joint efforts to take the level of bilateral trade to at least $2 billion.”
Kashif Anwar said that major items of Pakistan’s exports to Belgium were textile products followed by rice and leather etc. Pakistan imports from Belgium include pharmaceutical products, articles of plastics, machinery, Iron and Steel, etc.
He said that the government of Pakistan was attempting to meet all the requirements of EU Programme protocols, and Pakistan’s Mission in Brussels was pursuing the matter with the EU Secretariat. “We seek the support of Belgium – being an important member of EU for getting extension of GSP Plus till 2034,” the LCCI President added.
Kashif Anwar said that there were great prospects of increasing trade through diversification of products on the basis of GSP plus status awarded to Pakistan by the European Union. The potential areas where both countries could increase trade were sports goods, surgical instruments, furniture and automotive parts.
LCCI Senior Vice President Chaudhry Zafar Mahmood said that Belgium was an excellent transit point, through which Pakistan get access to entire European market. There is an excellent storage facility in Belgium for perishable goods and Pakistani exporters can penetrate into that market.
He said that LCCI would like you to play a role in connecting the Pakistani exporters of perishable goods with their counterparts in Belgium. Pakistan also value the increasing academic cooperation between two countries as a growing number of Pakistani students are studying in Belgian Universities.
LCCI Vice President Adnan Khalid Butt paid special tribute to European Union for providing 3.5 million Euros to assist floods victims in Pakistan while Belgian First Aid and Support Team commonly known as B-FAST donated hundreds of tents to relieve the homeless flood affectees.
Meanwhile, in a separate meeting with the LCCI office-bearers, Pakistan Ambassador to Syria Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Akhtar said that the efforts were afoot to arrange a ministerial conference. He said that the civil war in Syria was almost over. Now it was in the reconstruction phase and Pakistani private sector should avail benefit from this opportunity. He said that China, Indian, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were very active in Syria. There was a wide scope for Pakistani pharmaceutical, live-saving drugs and surgical instruments etc. He said that Pakistan’s trade with Syria could be increased three to four times.
LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that Syria and Pakistan had close and diplomatic relations. Pakistan had been supporting Syria during difficult times to maintain peace being the major part of UN Peacekeeping Missions.
He said that despite these unsafe economic conditions in Syria, there were still imports and exports being done between Pakistan and Syria. Pakistan’s imports from Syria were almost negligible averaging even below than US$400,000. He said that in 2020-21, Pakistan’s exports to Syria were around $21.7 million, which had come down to as low as $5.7 million in 2021-22. Pakistan’s exports to Syria were dominated primarily by textiles.
He said that the total global imports of Syria were in excess of $17 billion. The pharmaceuticals imports of Syria are $123 million while the imports of edible fruits were worth $144 million and imports of vegetables & dairy were in excess of $100 million. Pakistan could certainly enhance its exports to Syria in these product lines. (APP)