KARACHI: Pakistan needs to foster an enabling environment for business and trade and must explore sectors including financial services and agriculture to boost its exports to the United Kingdom, said UK’s trade envoy to Pakistan Atta-ur-Rehman Chishti on Saturday during an interaction with journalists.
Currently on his third visit since becoming Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Pakistan in November, Mr Chishti stressed the need for boosting bilateral trade. The purpose of his latest visit aligns with UK’s move to leave the European Union and holding on to old trading partners including Pakistan for future business post-Brexit.
“As we leave the European Union, the UK is committed to maintaining the same levels of preferential access Pakistan receives under the EU’s scheme. It is important that Pakistan continues to make progress on its international obligations to retain its EU GSP+ status,” he said.
“The GSP Plus trade arrangement will continue with Pakistan post-Brexit and legislation in this regard has come into force last week,” he added. UK, world’s fifth largest economy, offers numerous opportunities for Pakistan’s exporters.
According to official data released by the UK government, bilateral trade between the two countries increased to £2.9 billion in 2017.
“The UK is the largest destination for Pakistan’s exports, next to Europe. It is also Pakistan’s third largest source of foreign direct investment,” he said, suggesting that this figure ‘could be much higher, creating jobs and growth in both our economies’.
“The government of Pakistan has a responsibility to ensure that the economic environment is right,” said Mr Chishti.
According to the envoy, business environment in Pakistan was its biggest weakness which deterred foreign companies, including those from the UK, from trading and investing.
“For any country that is rated 147 in the ease of doing business that is not good enough. You have to ask yourself the question. What do we have to compete with those in the top tier? You have to have regulation, you have to have to have transparency, the taxation rules have to be predictable,” he said.
The UK businesses want tax, tariff and regulatory regimes to be predictable, transparent and increasingly automated. For trade to flourish, “introduce good regulation, transparency, there has to predictability and no uncertainty.”
Sharing an example, he said the taxation policy which was altered in July affected a lot of UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that were exporting to Pakistan.
On the occasion, the trade envoy stressed the need for Pakistan to explore untapped trade opportunities in UK. “Pakistani textiles are fantastic but I want exports to be across all sectors in professional services, financial services, and agriculture,” he added.