Lahore: The Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to expedite work on Free Trade Agreement with Iran as both the countries have huge potential to touch the staggering figure of $ 10 billion trade.
These views were expressed by the LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz while talking to the Iranian Consul General Mohammad Hossein Bani Assadi here at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Former Presidents Bashir A. Baksh, Syed Mohsin Raza Bukhari, Mian Misbah-ur-Rehman, Mian Muzaffar Ali, former Vice President Aftab Ahmed Vohra and Executive Committee Members also spoke on the occasion.
Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that Pakistan and Iran not only have common border but also share a glorious history. Pakistan and Iran have close cultural affiliations and both have remained steady trading partners as well but in recent years, the momentum of trade has been seriously affected.
Iranian Consul General Mohammad Hossein Bani Assadi said that Pakistan and Iran have the potential to cater to each other’s needs provided the businessmen have the exposure to the available opportunities.
He said that Iran is ready to start barter trade with Pakistan to facilitate the businessmen and to jack-up the volume of two-way trade.
He said that the business community in the two countries would have to increase interaction to share their experiences in the larger interests of the people of two brotherly nations. He said that the volume of mutual trade between Pakistan and Iran does not match their respective potentials. He said that Chambers of Commerce in the two countries would have to focus on expansion of trade by holding single country exhibitions and through trade delegations to each other’s country.
He said that dissemination of sector-specific and trade-related information would go a long way in achieving the goal. Both the countries should share their experiences in the filed of science and technology also.
He said that Agriculture, Tourism and Metal industry of Iran have opportunities of investment therefore Pakistani business community should come forward.
The LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif has proved his credentials by successfully negotiating a difficult deal with USA regarding lifting of economic sanctions. It will open new avenues of trade for Iran in international market.
The LCCI President hoped that Iranian trade planners would show the same foresight to ensure greater role to be played by Iran particularly in regional trade. He said that it is a proven fact that the economic prosperity lies in integration with neighbouring countries. Pakistan is eagerly looking forward to expanding trade relations with Iran.
“It should be a matter of concern for both sides that in 2014, the volume of bilateral trade has decreased to dollar 229 million which is a record low in this decade. In 2009 and 2008, our two way trade was as high as dollar 1.21 billion and dollar 1.16 billion respectively, Ijaz A. Mumtaz added.
The LCCI President said that although imports from Iran to Pakistan are following increasing trend but our exports to Iran are constantly dropping. For example, Pakistan exported goods to Iran to the tune of dollar 142 million in 2012 which dipped to dollar 43 million in 2014. In contrast to that Pakistan imports from Iran in 2012 were dollar 120 million which inched up to dollar 186 million in 2014.
He stressed the need to find ways to increase the volume of two way trade. He said that Pakistan is already exporting meat to Iran. Dairy sector can be another area to be explored for this purpose.
Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that the potential of two way trade between Pakistan and Iran is estimated to be over US$ 2 billion but it can only be materialized by making all out efforts. He said that our governments and respective private sectors should collaborate with each other on regular basis.
He hoped that work on Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project will be expedited. It will not only play a significant role in addressing the energy crisis of Pakistan but further augment the trade relations between the two countries. Import of electricity from Iran can also be a good venture.
“We have deliberated much to allow the businessmen of both the countries for trading in local currencies but a lot is desired to be done at the government level to formalize it, the LCCI President said.
Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that the close interaction between our institutions can play a pivotal role to obtain the desired objectives. We will appreciate to have trade inquiries through your good offices.