ISLAMABAD -  Bahrain’s Minister for Commerce and Industry Zayed R Alzayani.Bahrain’s has invited Pakistan to conclude Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for boosting trade.

A high-level Bahrain’s delegation, led by Alzayani, met Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan here on Wednesday. Welcoming the visiting delegates, the minister said that Pakistan attaches immense importance to its relations with Bahrain and appreciated the participation of delegation in the Second Pakistan-Bahrain Business Opportunities Conference. The minister supported the idea of concluding a Free Trade Agreement with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), that comprise of six countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Dastgir directed the officials of the commerce ministry to send the text of framework agreement to GCC immediately.

Dastgir maintained that Pakistan-Bahrain second business opportunities conference that are starting from tomorrow in Islamabad and which will be co-chaired by the commerce ministers from Pakistan and Bahrain would certainly pave way for exploration of more business opportunities and enhancement of trade between the two countries. In 2015-16, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Bahrain was $143.10 million including $66.47 million exports from Pakistan and $76.63 million imports from Bahrain. “The two apex chambers (BCCI & FPCCI) need to devise a short-term road map for trade enhancement which should commensurate with our fraternal ties, the minister added.

The Bahrain’s minister appreciated the commerce minister for hospitality and warm welcome and invited Pakistan for concluding FTA with GCC to boost trade. He also stressed on making the Strategic Committee functional. Zayed also invited Pakistan to hold food and cultural festivals in Bahrain.

Dastgir welcomed the invitation of his counterpart and said that Pakistan may hold a food and cultural festival in Bahrain in October this year and will also invite Bahrain to hold and participate in trade exhibitions in Pakistan and exchange business delegations. Dastgir maintained that to enhance trade between the two countries, non-tariff barriers and some tariff barriers needs to be removed and that Bahrain should ease the business visa process to encourage more business-to-business interaction. “Pak-Bahrain Joint Business Council (JBC) meetings should be held on regular basis”, said Dastgir. The JBC was set up in 2007 and its first meeting was held in September, 2016.

Meanwhile, a 25-member Bahraini delegation, led by BCCI Chairman Khaled Almoayed, visited Board of Investment (BOI) and met with BOI Secretary Azher Ali Choudhry. The delegation was given a detailed briefing about Pakistan investment policy, different investment opportunities including Export Processing Zones (EPZ), CPEC project, Auto motive policy and facilitation extended to foreign investors by BOI.

BOI Additional Secretary Shah Jahan Shah encouraged Bahraini side for their visit to Pakistan. He said Pakistan is located in the region which provides the biggest consumer market in the world. So you can excess not only Pakistani consumer but also neighboring markets and Pakistan has a population of approximately 195 million people (6th largest in the world), 60 percent of which is under the age of 30, which offers huge consumer market with talented labour force from unskilled to highly skilled professionals, he added.

The BOI additional secretary said that Pakistan is one of the luckiest countries in the world for having four seasons, abundant land with rich natural resources, extensive irrigation network, favourable climate, year round crop production, skilled work force and vibrant economic outlook and the government is making best efforts to put the economy on a path of sustained long-term economic growth. In this context, focus remained on public-private partnership in the development process, improved productivity in agriculture sector, removal of energy shortage, enhanced industrial competitiveness, better service delivery system and upgraded human capital formation. Pakistan’s economy has maintained higher and broad based economic growth despite a number of internal and external challenges, he added.

He said the government remained focused on the agenda aimed at reviving of the economy, resolving the energy crisis, improving security situation, and providing ample opportunities to all in order to boost up their socio-economic condition and the economic outlook of Pakistan has altogether changed in the last four years, which is being acknowledged globally. Inflation is continuously on downward trend, whereas Stocks, Foreign Exchange Reserves and home remittances are on the rise, he added. GDP growth is increasing and remittances are on the rise and will soon touch 6 percent growth rate. He said Pakistan Investment Policy have been designed to provide a comprehensive framework for creating conducive business environment for the attraction of FDI.