Karachi: Pakistan’s new ambassador to Uzbekistan, Dr Irfan Yusuf Shami, has sought the Karachi Chamber’s assistance in identifying bottlenecks hindering trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan by seeking inputs from KCCI’s members who have visited Uzbekistan, so that steps could be taken to rectify problems and maximum facilitation could be extended to the business and industrial community of the Chamber. Speaking at a meeting of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), he stressed the need to explore the Uzbek market still further by identifying potential areas, besides effectively marketing Pakistani products and services which would surely result in improving the existing trade volume between the two countries. The ambassador added that upon assuming charge of Pakistan’s embassy in Tashkent, he will make it one of his first priorities to establish a display center where chamber-wise details along with samples of Pakistani products and services will be exhibited.

Expressing deep concern over Pakistan’s falling exports, Dr Shami gave the assurance that he would try his best to improve Pakistan’s trade ties with Uzbekistan, which is a market of great potential for many Pakistani exports, including pharmaceutical and surgical products, sports goods, agricultural products, including mangoes, citrus fruits and potatoes. He promised to maintain close liaison with the Karachi Chamber so that trade linkages could be improved between the KCCI and the Uzbek business community, and enable the Chamber to effectively respond to trade inquiries. “I am your ambassador and I am your commercial counselor in Uzbekistan. Any input from Karachi Chamber to improve trade ties will always be welcomed and surely taken into consideration, he added. He advised the Karachi Chamber to line up a business delegation to Uzbekistan in the first week of October, saying it will be fully assisted by the embassy and all out efforts will be made to facilitate the maximum number of B2B meetings with Uzbek counterparts, to pave the way for enhanced trade, investment and joint ventures between the two countries. 

Dr Shami said that ties between Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been improving as direct flights between the two countries were operating at full passenger and cargo capacity. “Uzbekistan Airways, which is operating in 52 countries, has initiated two direct flights a week from Lahore to Tashkent, which hardly take two hours to reach destinations. More direct flights from Karachi to Tashkent and Islamabad to Tashkent are also being expected, depending on the passenger and cargo traffic from these cities”, he added. The president of the KCCI, Shamim Ahmed Firpo, underscored the need for focusing on improving Pakistan’s regional trade with the Central Asian republics, particularly Uzbekistan, as the countries enjoy excellent relations. He said that the two sides will have to make collective efforts to further explore opportunities for promotion of trade and investment, besides exploring the possibilities of undertaking joint ventures in Pakistan or in Uzbekistan.

He expressed satisfaction with the various under discussion initiatives between the two countries, particularly Uzbekistan’s quest to use Pakistani ports such as Gwadar for reaching out to international markets. “Pakistan would very much like that the products of a brotherly country find their way to sea via its ports, which indeed offers the shortest route to the high seas from Central Asia,” he added. Shamim Firpo said that agreements on establishing banking channels and liberal visa regimes were imperative for improvement of bilateral trade and investment and efforts must be made to increase business-to-business contacts. He said that Pakistan and Uzbekistan can have close collaboration in the oil and gas sector because Uzbekistan is building a rail link to Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, which could be extended to Gwadar for promotion of trade.

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