Lahore - Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo has said that a large number of renowned Italian companies were presently exploring Pakistan as an investment option because the country has ample supply of cheap labour, having potential to be a regional hub for exports.

He was addressing the members of All Pakistan Business Forum on Friday at a local hotel along with Italian Association of Foreign Trade (AICE) Secretary General Mr. David Doninotti and several representatives of Italian companies. The meeting was arranged by the APBF, aimed at promoting trade relations between Italy and Pakistan by conducting by B2B meetings and match making in various sectors.

“Pakistan provides significant trade links including to China and central Asian region.” Stefano Pontecorvo observed that several Italian companies, including Fiat, are viewing Pakistan as the next possible investment destination.

Italy’s Fiat made a brief foray in the 1990s, but failed to gain a foothold before the financial crisis forced it to exit.

He informed the APBF members that delegation of Italian businessmen had visited all major industrial cities of Pakistan to establish contacts with the business community. “Italian businessmen closely follow the Pakistani market and products and appreciated the skills and talents available in the country.” The envoy said that Italy was holding Pakistan Trade and Investment Forum in Rome in April, 2016 to promote bilateral trade.

APBF President Ibrahim Qureshi would lead a 16-member business delegation where he would meet Italian Minister for Economic Development, officials from government agencies, Italian leading companies, and Italian foreign trade agencies.

Mr. Ibrahim Qureshi said that the focus of the seminar would be on energy, infrastructure, automobiles, agro food, pharmaceuticals, marble, stones and textiles etc, he added. He said that the current trade between the two countries is around $300 million while Foreign Direct Investment from Italy is around $200 million which needs to be enhanced, he added. “We want to diversify our exports and want to find new partners for doing business. I believe that Pakistan really has a lot of potential to promote itself and Italy is one country which provides excellent business opportunities,” said Ibrahim Qureshi.

Italian Association of Foreign Trade (AICE) Secretary General, David Doninotti, addressing the meeting said ‘we plan to bring several big companies of Italy to Pakistan, three to four companies are already here, hoping for a good joint adventure with local manufacturers.’

General Manager of Goglio, one of the biggest packaging manufacturers in Italy, was interested in getting raw materials from Pakistan and was extremely impressed with Pakistan’s potential. His company specializes in food packaging and is the front-runners in the food packaging industry in Italy.

Mr. Wasim Zakaria, chairman of Footlib, discussed possible collaborations with various Italian businessmen in leather and shoe industries. He shared with the participants formation of a cluster with an Italian company that would consist of 15 other Italian shoemakers who would set up a shoe making plant in Punjab.

Mr. Syed Hassan Raza of Syed Traders was also very enthusiastic to collaborate with the Italians in dairy industry. He mentioned that a 45,000 buffalo farm being created to cater to the rising demand for milk, along with producing mozzarella cheese in Pakistan and to supply Halal meat to surrounding countries.

The Italian delegation also visited the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade’s headquarter. The purpose of this visit was to discuss business relations between the two countries and how to increase bilateral trade that would be beneficial to Pakistan and Italy.

“Pakistan’s dairy and livestock industry is rapidly rising and a major Saudi Arabian livestock farm is planning to resettle in Punjab due to their own country’s unfavorable farming conditions” said Ms. Amena Cheema, CEO PBIT.