ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with the ASEAN bloc is worth US$6.3 billion which is far below the potential, reported WealthPK.

The ASEAN bloc is a great hub of Pakistani exports i.e., textiles, mining products, aquatic products, frozen foods, natural juices, plastics, construction material, etc. There is also a vast scope for both Pakistan and the ASEAN bloc in different sectors like the hospitality, tourism, construction, and real estate.

The ASEAN region has a huge development, manpower, natural resources, trade, and business potential. Ten countries i.e., Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). After China, Germany, Japan, and the US, the ASEAN bloc is the third largest economy in Asia having a population of over 660 million, GDP growth rate of 4.4% (from 2011 to 2020), and an aggregate economy size of about US$3 trillion.

In a discussion with WealthPK about the importance of trade with the ASEAN countries, media coordinator and public relations officer (PRO) for the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) Zulfiqar Ahmad said, “It is traditional for the RCCI to keep the process of regional connectivity boiling concerning trade and business. It is especially in the case of ASEAN countries. The Business Opportunities Conference (BOC) in Thailand held on August 19 this year is an example. Before this, the RCCI actively managed the BOCs in Sri Lanka (2021), Malaysia (2019), etc. Regular business promotion events are important to promote collateral relations between Pakistani and the ASEAN bloc.”

In a discussion with WealthPK concerning enhancing close trade ties with the ASEAN bloc, Tajamul Hussain Sachal, public relations officer for the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), said, “There are fraternal relations between Pakistan and the countries in the ASEAN bloc. They have good ties concerning trade, business, tourism, etc. But, at the diplomatic level, many reforms and new business understandings are required. This will help smooth trade terms and market explorations.’’

Continuing the discussion, Tajamul said in some ASEAN countries visa conditions were a bit complicated or slow and suggested that the Government of Pakistan take the initiative at the diplomatic level to overcome this problem. He said the certification problems concerning different trade aspects was another issue needing proper solution.

“Sometimes, our manufacturers lose an order due to too much certification or they avoid trading with some countries to keep away from too much documentation. The Pakistani authorities must ensure the same documentation for the ASEAN bloc. This will make it easy for our traders to not only explore, but also to grab the whole ASEAN region through their qualitative products.” The SCCI official said Pakistan must take the initiative to bring its trade, business, and diplomatic relations to the next level which will not only help improve the economic cycle but the country can find better opportunities for its manpower as well.