ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday agreed to enhance the volume of bilateral trade in next few years from existing $3.7 billion, which is well below than the existing potential between the two countries.

Both the countries also agreed to explore the untapped potential areas for increasing the trade and investment opportunities. Pakistan has welcomed the Saudi Arabia’s investment in its power sector, which would help in reducing the cost of energy costs in the country.

“I want to clarify that Pakistan is not a low-cost country in the energy sector, as our energy costs are very high. We are looking for way to reduce our costs and the most viable way is through renewable energy, be it wind or solar,” Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said while addressing the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Business conference. He further said that Saudi Arabia’s investment would reduce the cost of energy in the country. “Renewable is 4% of our total energy production right now and we want to take it up to 30%”.

While welcoming the Saudi investment, he said that it is highly significant for positive trajectory of Pakistan’s growth and economy. “We are extremely grateful to crown Prince for coming forward and bringing huge investment in Pakistan, which he announced during the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia and was announced last night”. He further said Saudi Arabia is a partner of Pakistan in its journey of prosperity. Investment in mining and mineral development from Saudi investors will be highly appreciated, he said and added other areas the government is hoping to get investment are the agriculture and food sectors.

Dawood assured the Saudis investors that government will give them a level playing field vis-à-vis Pakistani investors and other nationals who have already invested in Pakistan. In relation to the meeting with the Saudi minister of trade, he said they are looking at various options, such as a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council and removal of trade restrictions placed on Pakistan years ago so that “our businessmen have a wider field to operate on”.

The advisor said that the country is moving in the directions of improving power shortages and infrastructure for the last many years with the help of Chinese government under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said our relationship with Saudi Arabia is escalating in a different direction and at a different level. He said Saudi investors and businesses will be provided all out facilities in their business ventures.

Speaking on the occasion, Saudi Minster for Commerce Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasabi said Pak-Saudi relations are moving in a new and positive direction. He said Saudi Crown Prince has expressed desire to turn the bilateral relations with Pakistan into a strategic partnership.  He said Saudi Crown Prince has also asked to give assurances that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are partners in development. Both the countries have formed Pak-Saudi Supreme Council headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and Prime Minister Imran Khan, which would have great positive impact on improving partnerships, he added.

He lamented that the trade volume between the two countries is very moderate, only $3.7 billion a year, with a moderate 15% increase last year. “This is a moderate figure between two countries that could do much, much more,” he said. There are lots of opportunities in Pakistan, said Al-Qasabi, adding that these opportunities need to be marketed correctly and more investors need to be attracted on both sides. Majid Al-Qassa said we need to market things rightly and attract investors from both sides. For this we will frankly discuss the opportunities and challenges to reach at the fruitful outcomes.

“We need to be frank and honest and discuss issues and challenges and real opportunities,” he said, adding that once this dialogue is established, it will bear fruit.

He invited the participants of the conference to Saudi Arabia with a “constructed established list of issues and challenges that could be addressed”. “Through such dialogue we can enhance bilateral, economic, social and multinational relations,” he said. “We are investing in oil sector which is a strategic commodity and would invest in downstream industry which would help create more business opportunities and job creation,” he added.