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Pakistan and UAE begin free trade deal talks

Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, says negotiations are progressing WAM
Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, says negotiations are progressing

Negotiations have begun on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement between Pakistan and the UAE as both countries aim to build on the $10.6 billion bilateral trade registered during the past year.

Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, described the talks as “very important”, adding that he hoped there would be “significant progress” by the end of 2023.

The UAE is the biggest trading partner of Pakistan in the Mena region.

“Yes, we are working on this,” Tirmizi said in comments published by UAE state news agency WAM.

“The Ministry of Commerce of Pakistan is in touch with the relevant authorities in the UAE and hopefully, we will make some significant progress on this agreement before 2023.

“The potential is much more. I have been tasked by the political leadership of my country to increase trade, promote business opportunities [and] investment, and elevate cultural interaction between Pakistan and the UAE.” 

His comments coincide with a phone call between UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday during which they “reiterated their mutual commitment to further develop bilateral ties”.

Tirmizi, who assumed his responsibilities as ambassador in October, said around 1.6 million Pakistanis live in the UAE and during 2020-2021 they sent $6.1 billion home in remittances.

“Pakistanis consider the UAE their second home and vice versa,” he added. “The close geographical proximity between the two countries gives a great opportunity to work together.”

A recent Middle East briefing by foreign investment practice Dezan Shira & Associates said Pakistani exports to the UAE include garments, meat, cereals, agricultural products, fruit and vegetables while it imports oil and petroleum products from the UAE.

It cited Tirmizi as saying Pakistan is seeking to grow trade with the UAE to $15 billion in the next three years and to $40 billion in a decade. 

He said fintech, IT and startups are sectors which offer particular potential for Pakistan and the UAE to collaborate more closely.

“Last year our exports increased to $3 billion in these sectors,” Tirmizi said.

“We have skilled manpower and new startups. I will be focusing very closely on this, because I think there are immense opportunities between the UAE and Pakistan to further collaborate.”

Renewables is another area for collaboration and Tirmizi said he hoped a “big project” would be developed in Pakistan.

“They [the UAE] are investing both in technology and in projects like solar, wind or any other renewables.

“Pakistan will be working closely with the UAE, and you will see very soon the fruition of these negotiations that have already started between the two countries.”

The UAE-Pakistan relationship goes beyond trade. The UAE provided humanitarian relief to flood-affected areas in Pakistan last year and established an air bridge to transport aid to the people affected. “They have sent over 70 flights carrying relief items,” Tirmizi said. “This was critical for those people affected by the floods.”