I feel privileged to be writing my message as the 5th Chairman of Pakistan Japan Business Forum which was earlier successfully navigated by Mr. Aziz Memon, Mr. Farrukh Sheikh, Mr. Abdul Kader Jaffer and Mr. Sohail P. Ahmed. Each one of them have immensely contributed towards the robust foundation and for raising the height of the pedestal at which the Forum stands today.
PJBF’s application for registration was submitted to the government by two resident Japanese and six Pakistani businessmen and backed by 69 Founder Members consisting of 19 Japanese and 50 Pakistanis, including myself. The Forum was then officially launched on February 6th, 2001 with the exclusive purpose of getting the business communities of both Pakistan and Japan to cooperate in order to further improve trade and investments between the two friendly nations who will celebrate their 70 years of diplomatic relations next year. Coincidentally, Abdul Razzak Dawood, the then Federal Minister of Commerce, Industries and Production had consented to be the Chief Guest and who in his present capacity as Advisor to the Prime Minister Imran Khan for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production is helping PJBF in its efforts and under whose leadership PJBF last visited Japan in 2018 as part of the Joint Dialogue between the two governments.
Today, and according to PJBF’s charter, the board of directors include 10 Pakistani and 10 Japanese residents in Pakistan representing business conglomerates of Japan with a total membership of nearly 150 in business with Japan. The Ambassador of Japan, H.E. Kuninori Matsuda is the Patron in Chief and the Honorable Consul General of Japan in Karachi, Toshikazu Isomura the Patron. I was elected along with the new board as the Chairman in March last year for a 3-year term. As a founding member of the forum, I am witness to numerous dedicated activities which include monthly meetings of the board of directors to discuss business matters and issues if any, interactive sessions with prominent individuals, regularly organize exhibitions and seminars, arrange trade delegations to Japan every year comprising mostly of PJBF members belonging to SME’s for networking with their Japanese counterparts. PJBF also participates in the Joint Dialogue held alternatively in Japan and in Pakistan as a stake holder in matters of trade and investments discussed between officials of the two governments.
It is also worthy to note that PJBF came up with a document in 2007 titled “VISION 2030” as a roadmap to both the governments with information on the sectors where cooperation between the two was imperative. Towards this, elements standing in the way of trade and investments have been investigated and progress made to ensure a level playing field is given to the businessmen of both countries to cooperate and enhance collaboration. Specific sectors have been mentioned which can provide impetus towards better understanding of each other.
While automobile sector is very important to Japan having substantial investments being made, the textile sector holds similar importance to Pakistan being a source of major export earnings. However, nontraditional sectors such as information technology, fishery, sporting goods, agricultural produce specially mangoes and surgical instruments also hold great potential from which both countries can immensely benefit.
Located in South Asia with an area of over 800,000 sq. km and with a coastline of 1100 km, Pakistan borders Iran, Afghanistan, China and India. It also provides the economic corridor to the newly created States of Central Asia which too is a market of over 70 million people. As such, doing business in Pakistan means having possible access to almost 300 Million and towards which PJBF strives for Japanese manufacturers to look at Pakistan as a potential destiny for investments. Pakistan is blessed with abundant natural resources which, besides ample virgin land, has copper fields, salt ranges, coal mines, gas reserves and the like and consequently has well established industrial base for textiles, cement, fertilizer, steel, sugar, engineering goods, leather and the list continues with industrial units providing value added goods. Information Technology exports from Pakistan is witnessing a 40% growth each year with current export at $3 Billion. The availability of skilled professionals, an appropriate IT infrastructure and affordable rates for connectivity result is making Pakistan a choice destination for a significant number of international companies looking to relocate their operations offshore. The current global pandemic is offering increased opportunities to look at companies wanting to outsource their manufacturing and services.
The availability of skilled manpower has attracted Japan to sign a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with Pakistan to import 10,000 of such skilled workers in 13 different sectors and for which the special assistant to the Prime Minister of Japan, the Honorable Kentaro Sonoura himself visited Pakistan earlier last year.
My message would not be complete if I did not mention the cooperation, understanding and help that is extended by both the Ambassadors. H.E. Kuninori Matsuda of Japan in Islamabad and H.E. Imtiaz Ahmed of Pakistan in Tokyo who have been instrumental in going around in their respective assigned countries and further promoting the existing mutual ties with special emphasis on increased trade and investments between the two.
As the chairman of an important Bi-Lateral Business Forum, and the one well recognized by both the governments for its immense contribution, I look forward to further strengthen the role of the business community in not only commercial matters but also in the process create closer friendship amongst its people. There are ample opportunities available for both Pakistan and Japan to benefit from each other and I will endeavor to keep PJBF engaged. In conclusion I quote an important statement which is the hallmark of PJBF’s vision as its performance speaks:
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” Yes, 2001 was the beginning and we are now celebrating 20 years of PJBF in 2021 and looking forward to many more meaningful & eventful years ahead.
Pakistan-Japan Dosti Zindabad!!
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021