LAHORE-Ambassador of Azerbaijan Khazar Farhadov has said Azerbaijan has started direct flights from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to Azerbaijan and as a result, 50 thousand Pakistanis flown to Azerbaijan last year. This has also helped to increase the trade turnover three times.
He was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI President Kashif Anwar and LCCI Executive Committee members spoke on the occasion. The ambassador said that in the last 1.5 years, since he came to Pakistan as an ambassador, this is his third visit to LCCI which shows our intent for the business and trade relations with Pakistan. He said that Lahore Chamber is a biggest chamber and also represents the provincial capital of the largest province of the country. This also shows the possibilities and opportunities both countries possess.
The ambassador also emphasized on the need for exhibitions which he termed most important and significant to increase bilateral trade. He said that we have a very easy visa process which takes only three hours to get Azerbaijan visa. Trade is not only government’s or business community’s task but all the segments of society can also help in this regard as we believe that today’s tourists can be a tomorrow’s trader or student or a high government official. He said that Azerbaijan has established a few working groups and also increase the number of those working groups and we are already working to cooperate in energy, health and agriculture sector of Pakistan. He said that private sector must take an active role as relations of both the countries are unique. Pakistan has supported us in our war with Armenia and never recognized Armenia because of this occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory.
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He said that our people and our government highly appreciate Pakistan’s support. Azerbaijan has a trade surplus of around 26 billion USD which shows that we are a successful in term of our business projects. We have very good trade relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan has invested 12 billion USD in Turkey and Turkey also invested 10 billion USD in Azerbaijan. We also want same economic relations with Pakistan so that the three flags of Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey can fly together. He said that we are already importing rice from Pakistan and Pakistani rice has a huge market in Azerbaijan. He said that we want trade relations in the favor of Pakistan and want to sign Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan to boost economic relations. He said that more than 300 businessmen have visited Azerbaijan which is encouraging to see. He said that Azerbaijan has lifted the duties on rice and it is high time to export rice from Pakistan to Azerbaijan. LCCI President Kashif Anwar accepted the invitation extended to him by the Azerbaijan ambassador and also agreed to plan a delegation to Azerbaijan soon. He said that Azerbaijan is open for all initiatives with private sector. LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that Pakistan and Azerbaijan have good diplomatic relations but we have yet to succeed in translating these ties into maintaining sound bilateral trade. He said that according to the trade figures taken from the State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s exports to Azerbaijan in 2021-22 were 6.3 million dollars which considerably dropped from 15.5 million dollars in 2020-21. However, the imports from Azerbaijan improved to 1.5 million dollars from 0.7 million dollars during that period. He said that there is a need to explore the ways of increasing trade between both countries. The main reason of such a low level of trade is lack of proper information about each other’s markets. He said that Pakistan’s exports to Azerbaijan are mainly comprised of rice, textile, and frozen meat while we import petroleum gas from Azerbaijan. There is definitely a need of finding new products lines and new avenues of cooperation for enhancing trade between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.
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The LCCI president said that Pakistani products including pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments, sports goods, value-added textiles, leather products, home-made crafts, processed food and engineering goods have great scope in Azerbaijan. There is a great potential of joint ventures in tourism sector. Azerbaijan can also benefit from the expertise of Pakistan in IT sector.
He said that the commercial sections of our respective embassies have to play a positive role in this connection. Similarly, in order to increase private to private contacts and bilateral trade, the embassies and chambers should provide every possible assistance. He said that both countries should plan to organize exchange of trade delegations and also holding single country exhibitions on reciprocal basis.