KARACHI                    -              Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday invited the business community to become partners in the country’s economic diplomacy as the world states were focused more on markets, keeping in view their economic interests.

“Throughout the world, the success of foreign diplomatic policy increasingly depends on vibrant economic diplomacy, and this is not possible without your support and partnership. There is a need to create strong economic linkages with the world,” he said during an interactive session with the members of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) here at the Federation House.

He said the FPCCI, being the apex trade body and having links with trade bodies around the world and international economic forums, could play a very important role in establishing Pakistan’s economic links with other countries.

On the proposal by FPCCI President Mian Anjum Nisar, the foreign minister announced to form a working group, consisting of three or four senior PFCCI members and an equal number of senior officers from the Foreign Ministry to help resolve the issues and streamline the things linked to economic diplomacy.

He assured them that Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team were fully alive to the grievances/issues being faced by the trade and industry in the country. The government was making all-out efforts for industrial growth and to boost exports. The economic stability and high economic growth was its top priority, which would create jobs and address unemployment and poverty, Qureshi told businessmen. It could only be possible with the business community’s support and cooperation. Qureshi urged the business community to make more investment in the country as it would be a win-win situation not only for the government but also for them.

“You are the engine of economic growth and we are ready to extend all possible support to you,” he reaffirmed.

As a part of its initiatives for strong economic diplomacy, he said, the government had revamped and strengthened Pakistan’s missions abroad, which included replacement of commercial counselors with well-trained and competent trade and investment officers.

The commercial counselors had also been relocated to other countries where they could better work for bringing more trade and investment in the country.

Contrary to the past, he said, the diplomatic missions now had been given clear targets of increasing trade and investment. Only those diplomats would continue on their foreign postings who

would give better economic results.

He agreed with the FPCCI leadership that the country needed aggressive diplomacy, especially economic one, to properly market its products and the investment potential in the world.

The foreign minister said he had advised Pakistan’s missions to extend all support, care and respect to the visiting business community, and share maximum information on trade and investment with them for better promotion of trade and bringing foreign investment in the country. “That, they should also respect and take care of Pakistani workers, earning money for the country,” Qureshi told the gathering.

“Overseas Pakistanis are the ‘Mohsin-e-Pakistan’. We must respect them,” he remarked.

Qureshi supported the FPCCI leaders’ demand that research and innovative/scientific steps were needed to strengthen the country’s agriculture sector in order to get high yield for the export as it had big potential.

For the purpose, he said, the government was going to enter into an agreement with the Chinese government on agriculture research.

The minister said Pakistan would benefit a lot from the recently signed second free trade agreement (FTA-II) with China. “China wants to relocate major industry and Pakistan could attract the Chinese investment,” he added.

He emphasized the need for diversification, value-addition and exploring new markets in the world, especially in Africa, which is one billion population and 500 billion dollars market. At present, he regretted, Pakistan had only dollars 1.5 billon trade with 54 states of Africa. There was also a big market for Pakistan’s light engineering goods, he added.

“We are opening new missions in African states,” he said, adding recently a big trade expo was successfully held in Nairobi, Kenya, which had huge participation from many African countries.

The foreign minister said after its dismemberment from the European Union, the United Kingdom was keen to promote economic cooperation and partnership with Pakistan as it needed new linkages.

He said in pursuance of its agenda to control unemployment and earn more reserves, the government had negotiated with the Qatar government an agreement under which 100,000 skilled Pakistani labour would be sent to the country.

Pakistan had also offered supply of labour and services to Qatar, which needs to construct infrastructure in order to hold the Football World Cup games.