Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday said the current bilateral trade was not commensurate with the huge potential with Iraq which needed to be explored to expand bilateral trade volume.
Addressing the Pakistan-Iraq Business Council in Baghdad, he said Pakistan’s Single Country Exhibition held in March 2022 in Baghdad saw deals worth of US$ 20 million which showed the great business potential, between the countries. He expressed the confident that this Pakistan-Iraq Business Forum would ensure a similar opportunity for government to government (G2G) linkages and business networking amongst potential investors and trade partners from both sides.
Bilawal stressed for enhancing collaboration and mutual investment in five prioritized fields including IT, food security, energy, construction and medicine. During the event, an MoU was also signed between Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce (FPCCI) and their Iraqi counterpart.
The foreign minister said the establishment of Pakistan-Iraq Business Council comprising chambers of commerce and key business representative entities from both the countries would help expanding the bilateral economic ties.
“Through this entity, we can follow-up on programs, policy suggestions, roadmap, and special initiatives for enhancing trade and investment between the two countries,” he said. The foreign minister also assured the government’s full cooperation to the work of this proposed Business Council.
He said economic diplomacy was at the heart of the Pakistan’s foreign policy. “We want to build mutually beneficial economic ties. Let our partnership be led by the burgeoning and vibrant business community from both sides, paving the way for prosperity and progress of both the countries.”
Bilawal said during his interaction with President, Prime Minister and his Iraqi counterpart, he discussed expanding cooperation in diverse areas including enhancing bilateral trade and investment, collaborating with Iraq in rebuilding and re-construction of their infrastructure and sharing of expertise in water management and agriculture.
“We have resolved to explore new and innovative ideas of cooperation including connectivity, establishing sister port connections and cooperation in the areas of defence production,” he added.
In order to facilitate business community of both countries, he said he also discussed the issue of flexible visa regime for businessmen and investors and exchange of business delegation. Pakistan as part of its initiative of ease of doing business, has already made arrangements for visa facilitation and issuance of longer duration visa for foreign investors coming to Pakistan, he informed.
He further informed that during his visit to Iraq, the both sides had signed MoUs aimed at further enhancing cultural cooperation and extending visa waiver facility for diplomatic and official passport holders. These measures would substantially promote people-to-people contacts and high-level exchanges for promoting trade and investment.
“We are also aiming at concluding our discussions on MoU on Zaireen to facilitate them to flow the legal movement while visiting the holy shrines,” he said. He also informed that the Iraqi side had agreed to Pakistan’s request of opening its consulate in Najaf. The foreign minister said that the business communities on both sides would benefit from these arrangements which would contribute to enhancing trade, commensurate with the brotherly and historical ties. He said discussions were also under progress to facilitate the business community and remove barriers with regard to transfer of funds from Iraq to Pakistan.