LAHORE -  Amidst falling bilateral trade volume, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan Nawaf Saeed Ahmad vowed to make both the brotherly Islamic countries strong trade partners.

He paid a visit to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry where LCCI Acting President Khawaja Khawar Rasheed, Vice President Zeshan Khalil, former federal minister for information Muhammad Ali Durrani and former LCCI presidents Mian Shafqat Ali, Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry and Engineer Sohail Lashari also spoke on the occasion.

The ambassador spoke highly on the issues of brotherly relations, strategic and bilateral trade relations between the two countries. He said that concrete measures were being taken for enhancement of trade between the two brotherly countries.

“Pakistan is my country, it has a bright future and its progress and prosperity is of entire Muslim Ummah,” the ambassador said. He added that the people of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had strong and brotherly relations and these would further be strengthened with the exchange of trade and cultural delegations. He said that a delegation of Saudi Commerce Ministry would visit Pakistan soon to negotiate on trade and investment.

He said that there exists enormous scope to expand the economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. At the same time, Saudi businessmen can be motivated to come and invest in Pakistani industries.

He urged the media to show true and beautiful picture of Pakistan to the world that would attract foreign investment towards this heaven.

The LCCI acting president said that Saudi Arabia is important trading partner of Pakistan as it comes at 6th place and 12th place among the top importing and exporting countries for Pakistan respectively.

It is worth noticing that Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Arab countries and the second-largest economy in the region after Turkey.

He called for solid measures to expand and promote trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which is following decreasing trend from the last few years. He mentioned that in 2014, the volume of bilateral trade was almost 5 billion dollar but in the following years, a serious slump was witnessed. From 2014 on, the two way trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia fell by 30% and 35% which reduced it to dollar 2.2 billion in 2016.

He said that That drastic descent was the result of consistent fall in imports and exports. The imports from Saudi Arabia contracted by 32% and 39% in last two years whereas the exports decreased by 15% and 12% respectively.

“Petroleum oils consist of almost half of the total imports made from Saudi Arabia. In 2014, Pakistan imported oils worth 2.85 billion dollar which reduced to 870 million dollar in 2016. Similarly, the decline in export of rice to Saudi Arabia caused the value of total exports to plunge from 510 million dollar to 380 million dollar in the same period of time.

He said Pakistan mainly imports oil and oil products from Saudi Arabia, which accounts for 90 percent of our total import bill for the Kingdom. In turn, Pakistan supplies rice, meat, meat products, spices and fruit, home textile products, chemicals, footwear and leather goods, he added. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan caters to a merely 0.3 percent of the import market of Saudi Arabia, the LCCI acting president added.

He said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia need to find new avenues for the expansion of bilateral trade. “We consider exchange of trade delegations is one of the most effective ways of enhancing trade. Likewise, we have to identify areas of joint ventures. Pakistan has manpower, land and technology. There can be a win-win situation for both the counties if Saudi investors team up with our local industrialists,” he noted.

He stated that a free-trade agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia needs to be negotiated. The signing of a bilateral investment treaty between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was also a possibility in near future, he said and added the process of finalising be expedited.

He also talked about vision 2030-related investments opportunities inSaudi Arabia and projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan. Reconstruction and new development activity started in Saudi Arabia creates new opportunities for Pakistani labour. “Our agriculture and industry need to be revived with the involvement of Saudi investors. Saudi Arabia ranked 29th in the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, down from 25th place in 2015-2016. Pakistan’s ranking in Ease of Doing business has also gone down from 144 to 147. This situation creates another area of collaboration to jointly improve the rankings,” he concluded.