KARACHI  - Consul General of France Christian Ramage said on Saturday that a high profile trade delegation from France is scheduled to visit Pakistan in September.

Addressing the office bearers and members of Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) at a luncheon meeting hosted in his honour, the French diplomat said that this was first ever trade delegation from France visiting Pakistan comprising businessmen exclusively from leather sector.

He said that delegation would also visit Lahore, Islamabad and Sialkot to have B2B meetings with the leathers manufacturers. Ramage further stated that the bilateral trade relations between the two countries are cordial and many French companies have invested in Pakistan.

He pointed out that balance of trade between the two countries has now gone into favour of Pakistan.

Replying to the PTA’s Diplomatic Affairs Committee Chairman Gulzar Firoz’s questions regarding visa problems being faced by the businessmen in Karachi, he said that visa office of French consulate general had been shifted to Islamabad a few years back due to security reasons.

He however said that arrangements may be available to the businessmen at the German Consulate in Karachi for issuance of Schenegan Visa.

Ramage while praising the quality of Pakistan’s leathers goods said that his son has bought a Pakistani leather jacket and found it as one of the best quality jackets available in France.

The patron in-chief Korangi Association of Trade and Industry, S M Muneer said that Pakistan and France are enjoying cordial relations and many French companies are operating in Pakistan but the trade volume between the friendly countries is not significant.

He said that France should provide greater market access to Pakistan. He hoped that France would help Pakistan to get GSP Plus in end 2013 as Pakistan qualifies for the tariff free access to European Union market.

Chairman, PTA S M Nasim said that leather industry in Pakistan is the second largest export-oriented industry in Pakistan after textiles and over 50 per cent leathers units are located in Karachi.

He said that as leather industry is facing a difficult phase in Pakistan EU should provide greater market access to Pakistan.

Gulzar Firoz in his welcome address requested the French diplomat to provide visa processing facility in Karachi as businessmen are facing problems due to shifting of visa office if French consulate to Islamabad. He pointed out that businessmen have to spend Rs50,000 additional due to shifting of visa office.

He requested Ramage to help Pakistan in getting GSP (generalised system of preferences) in December 2013. He informed that PTA is running Pakistan first ever Combined Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Karachi under his command.

He further pointed that Karachi’s leather industry is complying all international as well EU standards. He said that the volume of export of leather and leather products to France during the year July-June 2010-11 was $70 million, an increase of 22% as compared to the same period of last year.

Pakistan’s share in the import of leather and leather products by France is only 0.84% while France imported $8.342 billion from the world during 2011. Pakistan’s total export of leather and leather products was $1.086 billion during the fiscal year July-June 2010-11 and the current figures from July-December-2011 is around $536 million with an increase of 2.55% as compared to the same period of last year’s export.

Gulzar urged that exchange of delegations and holding of single country exhibitions, technical assistance and training, joint venture and technical collaboration, to assist us in promotion of brands so that our products can fetch better prices.

He requested that 2-years period (January-2012 to Dec-2013) allowed for duty free access to European market be extended for another one year up to 2014. GSP condition of minimum 1% export to EU by extending it to 2%.