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KARACHI: Acting Consul General of Thailand Paoyee Waesahmae has said that trade balance between Pakistan and Thailand was in favour of Thailand, which can be balanced if the difficulties were efficiently tackled by the Government of Pakistan, particularly the delays in signing the Pakistan-Thailand Free Trade Agreement which has been pending for many years.

Exchanging views at a meeting of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), the envoy said that negotiations for finalizing and concluding Pakistan-Thailand FTA suffered delays due to restriction imposed to contain further spread of COVID-19 pandemic but now as the situation has been improving, it was high time to conclude this important FTA which would certainly go in favour of both the countries.

"KCCI, being a major stakeholder, must push the government to expedite FTA between the two countries", he added.

He stated that the bilateral trade was in good shape but it would improve further if the business and industrial community of Karachi focuses more to further improve their ties with Thai counterparts. "We are ready to fully cooperate with businessmen intending to furthering their ties with Thai businesspeople but in order to achieve the desired objective it was very essential for Pakistani businessmen to know the Thai people and understand their culture so that they could accordingly supply Pakistani goods to Thai market as per requirement," he added.

He said that although Thai delegations were being brought to Pakistan and they were also regularly participating in KCCI's My Karachi Exhibition but all these trade promotional activities remain completely suspended since the outbreak of pandemic.

Moreover, a large number of Thai tourists regularly visited the northern areas of Pakistan every year whereas around 90,000 Pakistani tourists also visited Thailand prior to COVID-19 pandemic but the overall tourism activities have suffered terribly due to pandemic, he said.

"We hope that the situation normalizes soon so that we could carry out trade activities together and work collectively for increased bilateral trade."

He also advised that the Pakistani authorities must focus on improving the tourism infrastructure in order to improve the number of tourists from Thailand as it has been observed that Thai tourists face a lot of problems while touring Pakistan mainly due to lack of basic facilities.

President KCCI Muhammad Idrees informed that Pakistan and Thailand were enjoying sound bilateral trade relations but these suffered badly due to COVID-19 as during 2020, Pakistan's export to Thailand dropped by 44.57 percent to $141.53 million as compared to $255.37 million in 2019. Similarly, Pakistan's import from Thailand also descended to $966.6 million in 2020 against $1,175.69 million in 2019, showing a decline of 17.78 percent.

He noted that the trade balance remained in Thailand's favour by $825.06 million in 2020 which has to be made balanced by facilitating linkages between the business communities of Pakistan and Thailand.

He noted that Thailand possesses number of high value-added industries like agro-business, food processing and automotive production. Pakistan, by arranging joint ventures in these fields, can develop these industries together. Pakistan can be a gateway for penetrating South and Central Asia for Thailand.

Furthermore, there is a huge potential to collaborate in the field of trade, culture, infrastructure development, science and technology, defense, education and religious tourism, besides looking into the possibility of enhancing Pakistan's seafood export to Thailand, he added.

President KCCI further assured full support and cooperation to Thai Consulate in Karachi for all its endeavours to enhance trade and investment ties between the two countries. He also advised Acting CG to look into the possibility of encouraging Thai universities to establish their campuses in Karachi via joint ventures with local universities.

Senior Vice President KCCI Abdul Rehman Naqi, Vice President KCCI Qazi Zahid Hussain, Honorary Trade Advisor Thailand Arif Suleman, and KCCI Managing Committee Members were present at the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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