FAISALABAD - The British trade minister will visit Pakistan during next week to discuss bilateral trade and issues relating to the fresh UK investment in Pakistan, said British High Commissioner Thomas Drew on Thursday.

Addressing the business community in Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI), Thomas said that Pakistan has enjoyed long standing friendly relations with UK but these are not truly reflected in their economic affairs. He told that UK is extending best possible facilities in the field of education and vocational training which will certainly give a quantum jump to the economic activities in Pakistan. He also mentioned the dynamic role of British Council and said that it was extending lucrative and productive scholarship to train Pakistani students in modern scientific subjects which will have a salutary impact on the overall economy of Pakistan.

He said that UK was also cooperating with the Punjab government in the field of education in order to bring a comprehensive and positive socio-economic change in this province. He said that Pakistan is the sixth largest country of the world and Faisalabad is the second largest city of Punjab which is playing its key role in the overall development of Pakistan.

Regarding Brexit, he said that no doubt, UK is leaving EU but it is not leaving Europe. “This situation has cropped up new challenges and we are trying our best to handle these issues prudently,” he said. He said that many UK-based companies are already working in Pakistan while many more are planning to make new investment particularly in the wake of CPEC. He assured that the British government will fully cooperate in bridging gap between the business communities of the two countries.

Earlier in its welcome address, FCCI President Saeed Sheikh said that Pakistan and United Kingdom have enjoyed good economic and bilateral relations for the last 70 years. The trade between the two countries is progressing but still it is not up to the mark and leaves much to be desired. The trade volume in 2016 was $2.18 billion where Pakistan's exports were $1.557 billion against imports from UK of $0.610 billion. Thus the balance of trade is in favour of Pakistan, he added.

He said that there is need to further improve the trade and investment links between Pakistan and UK to increase bilateral trade to cross the $3 billion target as early as possible. He said that Faisalabad economy has its origin from SMEs and the UK government can help improve the business environment and increase domestic and international investment in small and medium businesses for economic development in this particular area.

He said that Pakistan's economy is showing positive macro-economic indicators. "The improved economic and security conditions demand that international investors should take benefit of trade and investment opportunities here as Pakistan occupies a strategic position in the region", he said and added that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is yet another important milestone where UK investors could take benefit. He further said that Pakistan itself is a key market populated with 207 million people while its manpower is highly capable to work in any environment in any part of the world.

A short documentary on Faisalabad and FCCI was also screened while question-answer session was held in which Rizwan Ashraf, Suhail Rashid and Muzammal Sultan raised interesting questions. Later, the FCCI president presented FCCI shield to the British high commissioner while SVP Rana Sikandar-e-Azam Khan offered vote of thanks. FCCI Vice President Ahmad Hassan, former president Ch Nawaz, Ayub Sabir, Imran Mehmood Sheikh, Mian Tanveer Ahmad and others also participated in this meeting.