UAE, Pakistan are time-tested friends: Envoy Ghulam Dastgir

UAE, Pakistan are time-tested friends: Envoy Ghulam Dastgir
Ghulam Dastgir is Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE

Ghulam Dastgir, Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE, talks about initiatives taken by the two countries to further strengthen bilateral trade and investment as well as boost ties for socio-economic development.

By Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Wed 14 Aug 2019, 9:36 AM

Last updated: Wed 14 Aug 2019, 6:20 PM

The UAE and Pakistan bilateral relationship has entered into a new era to expedite cooperation on socio-economic uplift, increased trade and investment and boost defence ties in years to come, a top diplomat says.
Pakistan's newly-appointed Ambassador to the UAE, Ghulam Dastgir, said both the countries have exchanged high-level delegations in past one year to further strengthen bilateral ties on various key economic sectors as well as open new avenues to expand trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.
"Our annual bilateral trade with the UAE currently stands at $10 billion [including oil and petroleum products] and it does not signify the true potential of opportunities between the two countries. We can increase this number manifold in coming years following successful dialogues at the top-level leadership in past one year," Dastgir told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
Referring to the visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Pakistan early this year, he said both the countries are determined to transform existing relations into a long-term strategic economic partnership.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the UAE thrice after assuming the power in August last year to strengthen bilateral trade and investment. Pakistani key ministers are also engaged with their counterparts in the UAE to chalk out future roadmap and soon major decisions will be taken at the forthcoming joint ministerial commission," he said.  
Sharing latest trade data, the Ambassador said bilateral trade have crossed $10 billion mark in 2018 as exports from Pakistan to the UAE climbed approximately 30 per cent to $1.3 billion while its imports from the emirates reached at $8.9 billion.
He said Pakistan's exports to UAE include mainly rice, textiles, fresh meat and leather, etc. and it imports mostly oil and petroleum products from the UAE.
"We have a strong agriculture-based economy and can easily meet most of the food requirements of the UAE by exporting more fruits, vegetables, and poultry products, among others," Dastgir said, adding that the UAE can explore more investment opportunities in agriculture, oil and gas, renewable energy and other key sectors of the Pakistan economy.
To a question, he said Pakistan is very keen to have free trade agreement (FTA) with the GCC.
"We are negotiating FTA with the GCC and will expedite the process to finalise the agreement to increase the economic interaction with all the Gulf countries," he said.
The UAE's role in Pakistan's development
Dastgir said the UAE has been playing an instrumental role in the development of Pakistan through financial assistance in healthcare, education, infrastructure and socio-economic sectors.
"We are very thankful to the UAE leadership for its assistance to overcome natural crisis such as floods, earthquakes as well as building of schools and hospitals and infrastructure development in remote parts of the country."
Moreover, he said an estimated 1.6 million Pakistani community in the UAE considers the Emirates their second home and plays an important role in economic progress of the country. In addition, many in Pakistan's private sector have invested billions of dirhams in Dubai's real estate sector.   
"Both the countries have excellent relations on all fronts. My job is very challenging because I have to take these excellent ties especially on trade and investment sides to new heights," the ambassador said.
To a question about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said mega project will also connect the UAE with world's number two economy through a chain of infrastructure network that will pave the way for deeper cooperation on trade and energy sectors.
"CPEC is a game-changer. It will benefit the Pakistan as well as Gulf region," he said.  
Visa reforms
Dastgir, who was ambassador in Kuwait earlier, said Pakistan has launched an e-visa facility for foreign tourists from select countries, including the UAE.
"On arrival visa facility will attract more Emirati tourists to Pakistan," he said.
He added the government has also revamped business visa policy to attract more investors to explore opportunities in the country.
"We are actively working for ease of doing business in Pakistan. Our job is to facilitate the businessmen and investors as the government believes that private sector should take lead role in economic development and trade promotion," he said.
"Improving bilateral trade and investment is our top priority and this will only be possible when we facilitate private sector, exchange of trade delegations and develop people-to-people contacts through appropriate forums," he said.
Expo 2020 a huge opportunity
Dastgir said forthcoming Expo 2020 Dubai offers huge opportunity to Pakistani companies to participate in this mega event to strengthen ties with the UAE and other participating nations.
"We will promote investment opportunities, tourism potential, important export segments, sustainability, digital economy and e-governance at the country's pavilion under the theme of 'Emerging Pakistan'. We will go all-out to make this mega event a success," he said.
He also mentioned the construction of Pak pavilion at Expo 2020 is expected to start soon.

Pakistan-UAE ties at a glance 
The UAE is Pakistan's largest trading partner in the Middle East
The UAE is a major source of investment in Pakistan 1.6million Pakistani expats in the UAE remitted approximately $4.5billion annually
The UAE-Pakistan annual bilateral trade stands at $10 billion
The UAE made significant contributions to Pakistan's education, health, energy and infrastructure

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