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UAE, Pakistan in push for stronger trade ties

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Leaders of the UAE and Pakistan have reaffirmed earlier commitments made by the two countries to boost bilateral trade.

Pakistan imports from the UAE stood at £5.9 billion in 2021, according to the United Nations’ Comtrade database on international trade, but there is currently no formal free trade agreement between the two countries.

A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to remove or reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.

Pakistan is seeking to bolster its economic development after the country’s parliament voted to remove Imran Khan as prime minister through a vote of no confidence on April 3, threatening to plunge the country into constitutional and economic turmoil.

Shabhaz Sharif, the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was sworn in as prime minister the following week and will serve as the country’s leader until the next general election in 2023. He pledged to rebuild “unity” in Pakistan and strengthen diplomatic and trade links with global partners.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, met Sharif during the latter’s visit to the UAE at the end of last month. In a meeting on April 30, the two leaders discussed how to advance longstanding relations between the UAE and Pakistan and increase trade cooperation, as well as reviewing several issues of regional and international concern, the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohammed reportedly emphasised the close historical relationship between the two countries and the valuable economic contributions made by the Pakistani community in the UAE. Sharif stressed his commitment to strengthen relations with the UAE in various fields. According to Comtrade data analysed by Trading Economics, Pakistan’s top imports from the UAE include mineral fuels, oils, iron and steel and plastics.

The meeting was also attended by General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Theyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, Diplomatic Adviser to UAE President, and Ali bin Hammad Al Shamsi, Deputy Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council.

Pakistan has for several years expressed its hope of forging new trade links with the UAE, one of its top trading partners, and other Gulf states. Last September, Abdul Razak Dawood, then-adviser for commerce and investment to former prime minister Imran Khan, told Reuters the country would pursue preferential trade agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman within the ensuing 12 months.

The GCC started free trade talks with Pakistan in 2004 but has not implemented a free trade deal since 2015.