ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Commerce and Textile, Muhammad Pervaiz Malik on Thursday said that Pakistan is a profitable market and investors from Azerbaijan should take full advantage of it by investing in different sectors.

In a meeting with Ambassador of Republic of Azerbaijan to Pakistan Ali Alizada, the minister said Pakistani government and Ministry of Commerce & Textile will provide full support to the foreign investors.  The minister said that there exists great potential between the two countries but the bilateral trade is not a true reflection of that.

He said that trade volume between the two countries has declined from $58.26 million in 2015-16 to $26.88 million in 2016-17 and a concerted effort is needed on both sides to increase the trade volume and economic cooperation.

"The decrease in Pakistan's exports to Azerbaijan in 2016-17 is mainly due to decline in export of rice to Azerbaijan from $45 million to $ 21.1 million", he added.

The minister said that there exists good scope for export of ready-made garments, cotton products, engineering goods, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, rice, textile fabrics, sports goods, surgical instruments and tents from Pakistan and import of non-ferrous metals, oil and oil products, canned fruit juices, raw cotton, LPG from Azerbaijan.

"There is need to increase the business to business and government to government interactions and exchange of delegations to identify the business opportunities that will in turn result in increasing the trade volume", he added.

The minister informed the ambassador that in order to enhance and diversify trade with Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Commerce has prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding on five-year trade cooperation plan that has been shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for onward transmission to the relevant authorities of Azerbaijan for their comments but response from Azerbaijan side is awaited.

The Azerbaijan ambassador said that Pakistan is a lucrative market for investors from Azerbaijan and they are keenly interested in investment. He also agreed with the minister's proposal for increased interaction and institutional arrangements to discuss trade related issues and identify areas of interest to boost bilateral trade and cooperation.

Later on, the Ambassador of Romania, Nicolae Gola called on the Federal Minister for Commerce and Textile Pervaiz Malik. The minister welcomed the ambassador and said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its trade relations with Romania as it is an important trading partner of Pakistan within the European Union region.

Pakistan's bilateral trade with Romania was $97.25 million in 2016-2017. Pakistan's exports were $21.23 million while imports were $76.02 million.

The minister thanked the Romanian government for extending their support to Pakistan for continuation of the GSP plus scheme and hoped that Pakistan would continue receiving their support in this regards as it has helped Pakistan in a significant way in overcoming its economic difficulties.

The ambassador said that "Business communities of the two countries may interact more to increase the level of bilateral trade and both the countries should participate in Trade Fairs arranged by the two countries", he added.

Both sides agreed on making institutional arrangements for addressing trade related issues and identifying business opportunities.