The UK wants to increase bilateral trade with Pakistan from the existing £3 billion to £10 billion to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, said Deputy High Commissioner of UK in Karachi and Trade Director for Pakistan Mike Nithavrianakis.

Addressing the business community, during his visit to the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Friday, he said that improving bilateral trade and economic relations between the UK and Pakistan would bring progress and prosperity for both countries. 

He said that about 5,000 companies in the UK were doing business in UAE, but only 150 companies were in Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan was a huge market of over 200 million people. He emphasised that Pakistan should focus on addressing the issues of red tapism and other bottlenecks along with ensuring a predictable and growth-oriented tax regime to attract more investors from the UK and other countries.

Nithavrianakis said that the UK was focusing on four areas for close cooperation with Pakistan including healthcare, education, green energy and infrastructure. He said that the UK could also cooperate with Pakistan in agriculture, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and other sectors to make its economy more competitive. He added that the UK would try to provide preferential access to Pakistani products in its market that would further improve its exports.

Talking about export of fruits and vegetables to the UK, he said that Pakistani exporters should work on meeting the UK standards to get better penetration in its food market. He further said that Pakistani companies should focus on better marketing of their products as insufficient focus in this area was keeping them back from promoting exports up to their real potential. He said that the UK has issued advisories to its citizens to encourage them to visit Pakistan.

The British official assured that he would cooperate with the ICCI delegation to visit UK and in connecting them with the right partners there.

Also speaking at the occasion, ICCI President Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan said that there was great potential for promoting bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and UK for which better connectivity between the private sectors of both countries was needed. He said that Pakistan was expanding its industrial base through development of new special economic zones and added that UK companies should explore JVs and investment in these facilities.

He was of the view that close cooperation of UK companies with Pakistani counterparts would help in producing value added products and improving our exports. He specifically pointed out that we are not seeing our top agricultural products like mangoes, apples, oranges, bananas etc on the shelves of main supermarkets of the UK including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Morrison etc. He said that those Pakistan companies that are providing A-grade products should be connected with British companies to enhance their exports.

Khan identified agriculture, industry, IT, mining and tourism as potential areas of cooperation between Pakistan and the UK. He said that ICCI would ensure connecting the British High Commission with PASHA to shortlist at least 200 Pakistani companies that could provide software products and services to the UK.

The ICCI official added that they would also try to connect the local businesses with UK companies to bring their franchises to Pakistan. He said that many UK companies in Pakistan were doing better business as compared to some other countries and more should come to capitalise on the emerging business opportunities in Pakistani market.

He said that ICCI would consider taking a business delegation to the UK and British High Commission should facilitate in making its visit successful.

Other officials, present on the occasion, also reiterated that UK should streamline its visa process for the Pakistani business community that would help in developing strong business linkages between the two countries.