MINISTER for Commerce Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan seems to be pursuing the right path to diversify and increase Pakistan’s trade with the outside world. Talking to Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar in Islamabad on Thursday he said the Government was looking towards ASEAN and Central Asian Republics (CARs) in a bid to open up new avenues for trade enhancement.
Intensified trade and economic ties with the Central Asian states is an unrealized dream, as successive Governments had been claiming to working for the cherished goal but there is little on the ground to suggest that we are moving seriously towards that end. This is despite the fact that there are a number of complementing factors that could help us promote closer economic cooperation with these countries. We have proximity, common culture and common history that could work to our advantage for the purpose. More important than that, as pointed out by President Mamnoon Hussain during his recent visit to Azerbaijan, there is inclination in CARs to have greater interaction with Pakistan in all fields. Experts also point out that countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – with a combined Gross Domestic Product of $207 billion and a population of 66 million – offer a sizeable market for Pakistan’s goods and services as they are also interested to enhance trade relations with Pakistan. It is because of the potential of CARs that China, India and Iran are increasinglyfocusing their attention towards the central Asian markets to enhance their trade share. Tajikistan in particular, which is only a few miles away from the Pakistani border, is an important gateway to other central Asian countries. Tajikistan has a lot of scope to boost bilateral trade for the mutual benefit of the people of two countries. It is rightly emphasized by the business community that from cement to light engineering goods to jewellery, stationary, food items, cosmetics and handicrafts, we can export anything and everything to Central Asian states once we resolve logistic issues. We hope that the Minister for Commerce, who has a vision to significantly increase Pakistan’s trade with other countries, would persistently focus on ‘Look CARs’ to give practical shape to his commitment to enhance economic ties with the region.