LAHORE    -    The Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) said on Sunday that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was play­ing a role in channelising the notion of economic di­plomacy in policy-making arenas. “Indubitably, CPEC has the potential to become a breeding ground for Paki­stan’s venture of economic diplomacy not only through special economic zones but also by enhancing regional connectivity in multifarious manner.” Addressing the PBF executive committee here, forum’s Deputy Sec­retary General (Economic) Dr Laraib Elahi said that it was a widely accepted fact that economy was central to foreign policy and was curated in accordance to it. Since geo-economics shaped geopolitics, she added, it was indispensable to ensure eco­nomic amplification through diplomatic means to build and maintain regional in­fluence. She asserted that it would not be wise to bifur­cate economic policy and foreign policy, as it was an effective tool of national se­curity as well. She said that the West, being far ahead of the rest of the world, had realised the importance of economic diplomacy and had set up European Union - the biggest trade bloc, with more than 100 countries in trade relations - was the epitome of building trade superstructure over diplo­matic infrastructure. The EU started its envious journey from a treaty of merely six countries trading in just two goods (European coal and steel community) ultimately coalescing the entire conti­nent. The PBF office-bearer observed that Pakistan’s trade outreach was lim­ited to European states that stretched to American con­tinent for most. If it coupled with aggressive yet prudent diplomacy supplemented with local think tanks or NGOs, the reach could turn global within no time. No doubt the centre of gravity for the global economy had now shifted from the West to Asia and Africa, later it would be labelled as the ‘Continent of the Future’ owing to its promising economic poten­tial and lucrative investment. In this perspective, Pakistan would also have to diversify its exports by focusing more on the CPEC. According to US Department of Agriculture, she mentioned, Pakistan’s domestic rice consumption was 3.7 million tonnes and exportable supply had been 7.3 million tonnes during financial year 2021-22, this large surplus was an oppor­tunity to bolster exports, and it happened only through rigorous economic diploma­cy. However, there was a dire need to institutionalize the ethos of economic diploma­cy to keep pace with rest of the world, Dr Laraib added.