KARACHI - Consul General of Malaysia Ismail Bin Mohamad Bkri has underscored the need for a visa-free regime between Pakistan and Malaysia in order to effectively promote people-to-people and business-to-business contacts between the two countries.

Talking to Chairman of Pakistan Soap Manufacturers Association (PSMA) Abdullah Zaki and other PSMA members during his visit to association’s office on Friday, the Malaysian diplomat said that if such a visa-free regime is taken into consideration, it would surely bring people closer to each other, enhance the existing trade ties and definitely create a win-win situation for both countries.

About Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Malaysian consul general stressed the need to revisit the existing FTA and introduce more products and commodities in the FTA keeping in view the prevailing circumstances. He opined that Pakistan had emerged as a good trading partner for Malaysian suppliers who were keen to expand their businesses with Pakistani counterparts.

He was fairly optimistic about the opportunities to enhance the existing trade ties between the two countries. He said these ties would continue to expand in different sectors of the economy, resulting in strengthening of trade ties between Pakistan and Malaysia.

Earlier, welcoming the Malaysian consul general, Chairman of PSMA Abdullah Zaki said that Malaysia and Pakistan had been enjoying cordial relations and numerous commodities, particularly edible oil, were currently being traded between the two countries but there was a dire need to diversify the existing product range being traded between the two brotherly countries.

The chairman of PSMA said that the soap industry of Pakistan was looking forward to boost imports of raw materials from Malaysia, which had to be facilitated by providing better opportunities under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). He said that visit of a PSMA delegation had already been finalised to attend POC-2017 scheduled to be staged in the first week of March 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

Highlighting the overall structure of Pakistan’s soap industry, Abdullah Zaki said that around 650 factories were engaged in manufacturing soaps, of which up to 500 were factories were operating in an unorganised manner whereas the remaining 150 factories were fully organized. He said all these factories were providing employment opportunities to more than 250,000 workers across Pakistan and contributed Rs18 billion revenue to the national exchequer.

He explained that production of laundry soap stood at around 500,000 tonnes, followed by 150,000 tonnes of toilet soap production, 50,000 tonnes of carbolic soap and also a huge production of 175,000 metric tonnes of detergent per annum.

He said that 80 percent of the raw material being used by the soap industry was being imported from different sources and the remaining 20 percent was being produced locally whereas Pakistani soap manufacturers preferred to use palm by-products to manufacture best quality laundry and toilet soaps.

Commenting on existing trade ties between Pakistan and Malaysia, Abdullah Zaki said that Pakistan’s total exports to Malaysia stood at $144 million and its imports were around $825 million in 2016, which clearly depicted a huge trade gap and it had to be addressed. He underscored the need to make collective efforts to enhance the existing trade volume of around $1 billion.