ISLAMABAD - Pakistan needs to chalk out an effective and result-oriented strategy to enhance trade ties with the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), WealthPK reported.

CPEC has provided Pakistan with a great opportunity to attract investment from different countries including the members of ASEAN. Various projects under CPEC have the potential to increase trade between Pakistan and ASEAN countries. According to ASEAN Committee Islamabad (ACI) Chairman Ambassador Nguyen Tien Phong, trade between Pakistan and ASEAN countries reached approximately $11b during the previous fiscal. He said that ASEAN and Pakistan had undertaken a joint feasibility study for a free trade agreement to enhance and expand the overall economic engagement.

“There is a huge economic potential to be realised through the regional comprehensive economic partnership. East Asia is Pakistan’s primary trading partner due to the growing trend of globalisation. With an emphasis on enhancing trade, investing and collaboration in various industries, this transition from geopolitics to geo-economics has been evident in recent years,” said the ambassador. ASEAN has become a 10-member vibrant organisation. Its members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with an overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than $3 trillion. ASEAN is now the fifth largest economy in the world. It is expected to become the fourth largest economy by 2050.

A research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, who wished not to be named, told WealthPK that ASEAN encouraged collaboration with Pakistan particularly in the areas of trade and investment, education, human resources development and tourism. “Pakistan and ASEAN countries share many commonalities including a strong affinity for culture and religion though Pakistan has not benefited to the desired level from trade with the members of ASEAN despite liberalising its economy,” she said.

The research fellow said that Pakistan could attract adequate investment from the members of ASEAN by promoting CPEC and offering them a variety of favourable proposals under different schemes of the mega project.

“As soon as Gwadar is completed, Pakistan will have a deep-water port that can serve as a gateway to landlocked Central Asian countries. Later on, they may use it for exports to ASEAN countries as well,” she said. She said that the unsatisfactory volume of exports was a persistent problem for Pakistan’s economy as it adversely affected the GDP growth. However, she said that the special economic zones (SEZs) being established in different areas of Pakistan under CPEC would attract foreign investment.

“As Pakistan tries to diversify its industrial base, ASEAN markets may offer opportunities to it. Pakistan can also benefit from the experience of some ASEAN countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in achieving economic progress through industrialisation,” said the research fellow. She said that Pakistan also has an opportunity to boost its exports by finalising the free trade agreement with ASEAN. She stressed the need to explore prospective areas for mutual cooperation between Pakistan and ASEAN countries to boost bilateral trade in a variety of domains. “Pakistan lacks competency and efficiency in the production line. Resultantly, the exports to the ASEAN market are confined to a few non-value-added products,” she told WealthPK. Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal has said on different forums that Pakistan should follow Malaysia’s model of progress to transform its economy and increase its per capita income and GDP.