Statement of the High Commissioner of Pakistan H.E Seema Ilahi Baloch, on the occasion of Made in Pakistan Exhibition 2012.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have traditionally enjoyed excellent relations.  We also need to strive to add more substance to our economic cooperation and benefit from each others’ strengths.

It is heartening to see that Pakistan-Sri Lanka trade shows a continuous upward trend. In 2008 the bilateral trade was US$ 255 million which has grown up to US$ 390 million in 2011. There is a strong desire and commitment on both sides to further develop the trade and commercial ties between the two countries and cross the mark of US$2 billion in the coming years.

One of the primary aims to organize the Made in Pakistan single country exhibition is to introduce the diverse goods and commodities being produced in Pakistan to the Sri Lankan consumers. The exhibition will provide an opportunity to explore the Pakistani market here in Sri Lanka. I hope that our Sri Lankan friends will take maximum benefit from this opportunity.

Despite all recent challenges, Pakistan’s economy and exports have shown remarkable recovery and growth. Worldwide Exports have been growing at a steady pace and have increased from US$17.69 billion in 2008-09 to US$19.3 billion in 2009-10. Exports have crossed US$20 billion mark in 2011. We are confident of reaching US$25 billion by the end of June 2012. This shows the confidence of our buyers in the manufacturing and trading potential of Pakistan, and it continues to grow.

Pakistan’s location is its key strength for trade and for investment. In the heart of Asia, it is the gateway to the energy rich Central Asian States, the financially liquid Gulf States and the economically advanced Far Eastern tigers. This strategic advantage alone makes Pakistan a marketplace teeming with possibilities.  In addition, Pakistan has a large pool of trained and experienced engineers, bankers, lawyers and other professionals. Amongst them many have substantial international experience.

Today Pakistan has over 170 million consumers with an ever growing middle class. Structural reforms in tax and tariffs and reforms in the banking sector ensure a high returns on investments.

Businessmen and traders constitute the backbone of today’s economies. Our governments have created a conducive environment for the private sector. We have an FTA, a Bilateral Investment Treaty and an MoU on Customs Co-operation. The question we have to ask ourselves is that with all the paper framework in place are we fully utilizing the potential of bilateral economic cooperation?

Sri Lanka is the first country with which Pakistan entered into a Free Trade Agreement for trade of goods in 2005. While Pakistan listed 206 products as immediate zero duty concession products, Sri Lanka listed 102 products. This FTA is also mindful of Sri Lankan sensitivities and comparative market size, and gave liberal concessions to Sri Lanka in terms of (a) number of items on the negative list; and (b) duty phasing out schedules.

I would also take this opportunity to allay the apprehensions of Sri Lankan traders regarding our bilateral trading pattern with the balance of trade in Pakistan’s favor. Nearly half of the value of imports into Sri Lanka consists of raw material exports from Pakistan. The imports from Pakistan fuel Sri Lanka’s value added apparel industry and earn valuable foreign exchange for Sri Lanka through its exports to the EU and the US.

Pakistan offers a good opportunity to Sri Lankan traders and consumers to benefit from our abundant raw material, our developed household electronics industry, our fruits and vegetables, our sports goods, our surgical investments and of course our cement. All are available at competitive prices and with low freight costs.

Joint ventures in fisheries, food processing, mineral exploration, handlooms & textile can benefit businessmen of both countries.

The timber and furniture sector also offers promise, where Sri Lanka can benefit from the trained craftsmen from Pakistan and Pakistan can benefit from the wide varieties of timber in Sri Lanka.

The visit of the President of Pakistan in November 2010 and the visit of the President of Sri Lanka to Pakistan in February this year has provided the much needed impetus to the economic and commercial ties between our two countries.

I do come across people here who are reluctant to visit Pakistan raising security concerns. But, in today’s context conflicts prevail all over the world and trade and investment goes on irrespective of those issues. Sri Lanka itself is a prime example where the private sector held the economy together during its 30 years turbulent period.

Once again, I would like to reiterate that the commercial ties between our two countries offer many profitable prospects to the businessmen willing to explore new avenues of trade. I welcome you all to be a part of our endeavor to strengthen this bond between out two countries.