Consuls general of Iran and Malaysia have spoken to different audiences about the direction of trade that should be taken. For a country which has just had a government take office which is committed to bringing about an ‘economic explosion’, their words are valuable, for they indicate means by which export growth can be achieved, which will then lead to economic growth and all its beneficial consequences. Iranian Consul General in Lahore Mohammad Hussain Bani Assadi told the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry that Iran was seeking a new means of trading in the absence of banking channels. Meanwhile, in a meeting with Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Muhammad Akhgar, the Malaysian Consul General in Karachi, Abu Bakar Mamat, said that Pakistani businessmen should access other ASEAN countries by exporting to Malaysia, and thus use the Preferential Trade Agreement among the ASEAN countries.

It is worth noting that both consuls general made suggestions that benefited their own countries, as well as Pakistan. Iran is under US sanctions, and is unable to use banking channels. Barter, which bypasses banks, counters that. Mr Bani Assadi pointed out that Iran’s barter trade with India had reached $16 billion. That should indicate the type of opportunities for Pak-Iran trade that exists, and which Pakistan will need soon to pay for the gas it imports. Iran itself has expressed an interest in Pakistani wheat, which indicates one avenue of payment. The suggestion by Mr Mamat deserves deep consideration, because Pakistan needs to do much more trade in its neighbourhood, which includes the ASEAN countries. Malaysian businessmen who import Pakistani goods for re-export would clearly benefit.

The new Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, ran two business-friendly governments in the past, and has said or done nothing in the election campaign, or the post-election run-up to his taking of office, to indicate that he contemplates any change. While he needs the cooperation of the business community to make good his promise of an ‘economic explosion’, his government must not only give it support and facilities, but also ideas. The consuls general should not worry, nor should their governments, because if there is money to be made, businessmen will not forgo the opportunity. However, the Malaysian and Iranian governments must ensure that accurate information is made easily available, for information is essential in availing this kind of opportunity.