The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major source of investments and remittances with the trade volume between the two countries amounting to more than $8.5 billion
The time-tested friendship and strong relations between the UAE and Pakistan are based on a number of factors including their complimentary economies. In 2019, the UAE exported $5.93 billion worth of products to Pakistan. The main products that UAE exported to Pakistan are refined petroleum ($2.55 billion), crude petroleum ($2.04 billion), and scrap iron ($246 million). During the last 16 years the exports of the UAE to Pakistan have increased at an annualized rate of 9.56 per cent, from $1.38 billion in 2003 to $5.93 billion in 2019.
From Pakistan’s side, the major exports comprise of rice and textile goods along with the services sector. There are approximately 1.6 million Pakistanis currently living and working in the UAE. The Emirates is home to the second-largest diaspora of Pakistanis after Saudi Arabia and remit billions of dollars every year.
The governments of both countries enjoy close and cordial relations which have helped in boosting and nourishing the ties over the years. While speaking at a recent visit of the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the UAE and Pakistan have developed strong relationships over a period of time and it will further strengthen in future. He further added that the UAE is a time-tested friend and Pakistan is committed to support its sovereignty and safety.
“We are strategic partners and will remain strategic partners on all fronts. Whether it is economy or diplomacy or politics or defence, we stand with the UAE and will protect its interests on all fronts,” Qureshi told Khaleej Times. The Foreign Minister also paid rich tribute to the UAE leadership for hosting a successful Expo despite the challenges in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. He went on to say that he was impressed to see the first Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia and that all the credit went to the UAE leadership for hosting such a huge show with a success.
In a bid to further strengthen the economic ties, Pakistan and the UAE have agreed to start negotiations for greater economic cooperation to achieve Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the coming years. This was discussed in a meeting between the Ambassador of UAE to Pakistan, Hamad Obaid Ibrahim and the Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar in Islamabad.
The Minister furthermore welcomed the interest of the UAE government to reach a comprehensive economic agreement with Pakistan on the lines of FTA and ensured his full support for this positive development in the historic UAE-Pakistan bilateral relations. He was of the view that such an agreement would not only pave way for government-to-government (G2G) initiatives, but also help to create a conducive environment for the business community.
In recent years, Pakistan and the UAE have expressed the commitment to further enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields including trade, investment and tourism. The two sides have expressed contentment over the prevailing stronger relations with an aim to build and further diversify the avenues of economic activity. There have been several rounds of government level talks in which the various dimensions of bilateral relations and shared interests have been highlighted.
Beyond the government level, there have been efforts to strengthen ties as well. One such shining example is the Pakistan Business Forum, which aims to improve manpower in the UAE as well as boost trade and investment between the two nations. The forum will meet every month to strategise and take inputs of the members on how to improve trade, investment and manpower to the UAE. In each meeting, three to five members will get a chance to speak and share their suggestions on improving trade development and connecting the business community of the two countries. All Pakistanis are welcome to contribute in whatever way they can to promote economic and trade ties between UAE and Pakistan. It is due to such efforts that over the course of last year, Pakistan’s exports to the UAE have increased by more than eight per cent.
Continuing this forward, the UAE and Pakistan are looking to strengthen their economic ties, with a key focus on investment opportunities in the Sindh province, especially in the area of technology and sustainability. At the Sindh Investment Conference, which was held in Dubai, officials from both countries explored how the Sindh province, with a deep-sea port linking it to the Arabian Sea, has a massive investment potential for the UAE and GCC countries. The province also has the potential to boost bilateral trade, investment, and tourism between the UAE and Pakistan.
During the event, six MoUs were also signed that included both Pakistan’s public and private sectors, and were aimed at boosting business activities, collaborations, and support the startup ecosystem in Pakistan. The MoUs included funding the startups between Sindh Enterprise Development Fund and Pakistan Business Council Dubai; as well as investment facilitation between Sindh Investment Department and Pakistan Business Council.
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