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LAHORE: President SAARC chamber of Commerce and Industry Iftikhar Ali Malik Tuesday hailed goodwill gesture of Pakistan for offering 100 scholarships to Sri Lankan students in top medical institutions which will further cement bilateral ties with special focus to gear up trade and strengthen economic cooperation between two countries.

Talking to a delegation of traders led by Pir Saddam Hussain Shah, he said it’s good omen that both countries recently during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated the importance of strengthening economic relations in key areas of mutual interest and diversifying trade and investment of two countries.

He said that its historic major breakthrough that both sides underlined the vital importance of realising the goal of achieving $1 billion bilateral trade target and also agreed to work together closely towards broadening and deepening of Pak-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. He said that MoU on cooperation between Boards of Investment of two countries will accelerate the economic activities and boost bilateral cooperation.

Malik who remained actively associated with SAARC Chamber for the last three decades having deep insight said that the current trade between both countries is not entirely encouraging, but both countries have markets for each other’s primary products. Pakistan is an important market for tea products, which also happens to be a top Sri Lankan export item, and Pakistan is also a significant importer of copra and rubber, both items are important Sri Lankan exports. Similarly, Sri Lanka is an important market for textile products, machinery, and pharmaceuticals along with other products that Pakistan records significant exports, he said.

He said therefore there exists a huge trade potential between both countries if the FTA is utilised properly he remarked. He said that Pak companies have invested significantly in agriculture, information technology and construction sectors of Sri Lanka while its construction industry is growing rapidly creating huge demand of Pak cement. Pak private sector can also capture sugar export market in Sri Lanka which imports its 90 percent sugar requirements.

He said what’s both countries needed is to diversify their products through research, innovation and value addition adjusting according to the demands of each other markets.

He said non tariff barriers have smothered the impact of tariff rationalisations. He said due to lack of awareness, exporters do not make full use of market potential and benefits under free trade agreement.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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