Virtual conference on Pak-UK trade discusses opportunities to boost ties

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LONDON: A Virtual Conference was organized by the Pakistan-Britain Business Council (PBBC) in collaboration with Pakistani businesses at the Pakistan High Commission here on Friday (July 3). The purpose was to bring together key stakeholders on one platform so that business opportunities and challenges emanating in the wake of Covoid-19 could be discussed, and steps needed for enhancing Pakistan’s export to the UK could be explored.

Besides the High Commissioner, the Conference Panelists included Mr. Julian Hamilton Barns, Chairman, PBBC and Honorary Consul of Pakistan in the UK, Mr. Shafiq A. Shahzad, Trade and Investment Minister, Pakistan High Commission London, Mr. Rashid Iqbal, CEO PBBC and Mr Talib Karim from IoBM. Mr. Imran Khalil, former Chairman PUKBC, and Ms. Fariha Shah, Former Marketing Manager at PepsiCo moderated the Conference.

LONDON: Pakistan High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria speaking at the Virtual Conference on ‘Exploring Business Opportunities with the United Kingdom’ on Friday (July 3). Mr. Shafiq A. Shahzad, Trade and Investment Minister, Pakistan High Commission London is seated next to him.

Leading Pakistani businesses participated in the Conference Pakistan including Selimpex (Exporters to H&M and other UK retailers), Pakistan’s leading textile designers Sana Safinaz, Policy Makers and Tech Venture Capitalists.

High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakari apprised the stakeholders of trade and investment opportunities between Pakistan and the UK. He highlighted the current economic situation of the UK especially in the context of Covoid-19, and apprised the participants about emerging trade opportunities with the UK. He outlined key sectors with export potential in this market and underlined the need for focussing on these sectors.

Mr Zakaria stated that certification and standards compliance was the key in making long term business contracts, pointing out that Pakistani exporters need to concentrate on building trust, securing regulatory approvals and standards and developing a marketing strategy for their products.

Mr. Mohsin Gheewala, a leading Pakistani exporter gave an overview of the UK businesses and highlighted key issues hampering Pakistan business prospects in the UK market. Mr. Roger Bayat, suggested that there was a need to exploit digital global economy and Pakistan IT potential. It was also proposed that UK-British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) in London may be utilised to introduce Pakistan’s Tech Sector in this market.

Mr Julian Hamilton Barns endorsed the High Commissioner’s comments explaining that Pakistani Businesses must aggressively market their products across the UK building awareness of Pakistan as a major export centre and saying that exporters needed to invest in building Pakistan’s export capacity by “pounding the streets” and getting the message across.

Mr Tariq Ikram former CEO, TDAP, while sharing his views, recommended that priority products may be identified; depending upon specific needs of the UK, and should be focussed on for market penetration. He also commented on businesses facing visa issues due to closure of the UK High Commission in Pakistan during pandemic.

Mr Talib Karim (IoBM) further highlighted education as a sector where businesses from both ends can come together, through virtual collaboration as well as exchange of talent.

The Conference made it clear for the requirement for focus and investment and the need for an appropriate platform to allow exporters to showcase their goods and to connect with potential UK importers. It also recognised the need for Pakistan Businesses to engage with all stakeholders across the export spectrum including government and trade bodies. An updated knowledge of the UK/EU import requirements, standards and certifications was a key deliverable that needed to be taken into account by exporters. 

In the end, the High Commissioner expressed his note of thanks to all the participants, organisers and hoped that dialogue would continue and such event would be held in near future.