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A long-term partnership

Opinion

June 28, 2019

With our deep historical ties and strong people to people links, the UK and Pakistan are natural trading partners.

This week I made my first visit to this beautiful and vibrant country as Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for the region. This comes straight off the bat following Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit to the UK last week.

During the foreign minister’s visit, the UK government announced that UK Export Finance (UKEF) support available for trade with Pakistan is to more than double to up to GBP1 billion, to support UK companies exporting to Pakistan and for Pakistani buyers of UK goods and services.

This builds on UKEF’s existing offer for Pakistan, which includes guaranteeing financing in Pakistan rupees, allowing buyers in Pakistan to access finance in their own currency and making sourcing from the UK even more competitive.

This is just one of the steps the UK government is taking to strengthen our trade relationship, for the future prosperity of both our countries.

The links between our two countries are already strong. The UK is already Pakistan’s second largest trading partner globally and largest export market in Europe. Pakistan exports more to the UK than it does to China. The UK is also Pakistan’s second largest source of foreign investment.

UK firms helped build Islamabad’s International Airport. UK bank Standard Chartered provides banking services and access to finance. UK firm GlaxoSmithKline employs thousands of people in Pakistan, sells seven products every second, and protects millions of newborn children against pneumonia under Pakistan EPI’s National Immunization Program.

The UK’s commitment to Pakistan is firm and longstanding. The UK spends more money on development aid in Pakistan than anyone else – and more than double that of the rest of the EU member states put together.

As a part of our commitment to a prosperous Pakistan, it is the UK government’s ambition to see our trading relationship become even stronger. With the recent return of British Airways to Pakistan, businesses and people are closer together than ever before.

Key sectors for UK businesses in Pakistan include professional services, energy and infrastructure, education, defence and security, and retail and consumer goods. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) also presents opportunities for UK businesses, given UK strengths in technology and professional expertise

British consumers benefit from access to global markets, including Pakistan, through the variety, quality and cost effectiveness of imported goods. There are also opportunities for British businesses to benefit by integrating Pakistani firms into their supply chains. Many of these connections can be facilitated through the UAE, already a hub for UK business. One of my priorities is to encourage British companies based in the UAE to look to Pakistan as an area of further growth.

Pakistan, too, is keen to expand and diversify its export base and is already competitive in products such as textiles, garments, surgical instruments, steel, and sporting goods. In fact, the footballs used in the World Cup were made in Pakistan.

Bilateral trade is increasing, but there is scope to achieve so much more, if the conditions are right for business to thrive. As the world’s sixth most populous country, a Pakistan at its full potential is an enormous opportunity.

A better business environment would foster greater economic development and encourage foreign companies, including those from the UK, to trade and invest. Businesses I talk to in the UK and Pakistan tell me they want tax, tariff and regulatory regimes to be predictable, transparent and increasingly automated. We know that getting there is not easy. Success stories from other economies demonstrate the importance of both the right technical expertise and a strong political commitment to business environment reform.

In part thanks to UK government support, there is good momentum at the provincial and federal levels on business environment reform. In the 2019 World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings, Pakistan moved up 11 places – overtaking key reformers like Nigeria – after the government made significant reforms to business and property registration and resolving insolvency. The UK government is supporting the World Bank to help the federal, Punjab and Sindh governments to help improve Pakistan’s business environment and attractiveness to foreign investors.

The UK will continue to work to strengthen our trading relationship, and remains committed to our mutual prosperity and to working together order to attract greater trade and investment. Enormous opportunities remain but we must approach these opportunities through a prism of partnership, to achieve mutual prosperity, building toward a bright future.

This visit was my first of many, and I look forward to playing a role in this important partnership.

The writer is the UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Afghanistan and

Pakistan.

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