KARACHI: Consul General of Thailand Thatree Chauvachata, while referring to the ongoing negotiations on Pak-Thai Free Trade Agreement (FTA), said, “The ‘ball is in Pakistan’s court’ as Thailand has already submitted a list of around 200 hundred items to be traded between the two countries under the FTA but the issue is pending at Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce and we are waiting for its response.”
“In this regard, a political consultation between Thailand and Pakistan Ministries of Foreign Affairs is due in January 2020 in Islamabad to review the progress of the FTA. Meanwhile, the Karachi Chamber can also play a very important role by pushing the government to expedite and complete all the work before the said meeting in January”, he added while speaking at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) which was attended by President KCCI Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan, Senior Vice President Arshad Islam, Vice President Shahid Ismail and KCCI Managing Committee members.
Thai Consul General pointed out that Pak Thai Business House was launched at the Thai Consulate upon completion of first year of his service in Karachi as the Thai Consulate intends to strengthen bilateral trade through this platform which has already received 10 inquiries pertaining to bilateral trade. “In December, a delegation, which will be led by in-charge of the Commercial Section of Thai Consulate, will be sent to Thailand which will be followed by another delegation comprising four to five businessmen who will also be visiting Bangkok to attend B2B meetings and review how much more they can engage with each other”, he added.
Referring to the existing trade ties between Pakistan and Thailand, Thatree Chauvachata said, “Although trade is in favor of Thailand but I want to see a more balanced trade between the two countries and I assure full support and cooperation to KCCI’s business community for strengthening the bilateral trade.”
He further noted that Pakistan’s exports to Thailand have been gradually improving as goods worth $83.7 million were imported by Thailand in 2017 and in 2018, the imports rose of $112.5 million while during the first nine months of 2019, a total of $118.8 million have been imported so far.
Highlighting some of the potential sectors, he particularly mentioned the fisheries sector in which trade could be enhanced between the two countries as Thailand was the number one importer of seafood from Pakistan. “Pakistan is an important raw material supplier of seafood to Thailand, which we really appreciate and this is one of the important area where we can trade even more”, he said, adding that Thailand can also assist Pakistan in upgrading the cold storage facilities, grading of seafood and can also provide training in this particular sector.
Commenting on tourism opportunities in both the countries, Thai CG opined that there were a lot of opportunities available in Pakistan for Thai tourists, particularly for the adventure and pilgrimage tourists, who were largely visiting the northern areas of Pakistan. “In 2018, a total of 10,000 Thai visitors came to Pakistan and the number of visitors has doubled this year as about 20,000 Thai people have visited Pakistan so far. Similarly, a lot of Pakistanis also visit Thailand as last year, more than 80,000 Pakistanis visited Thailand and we hope that the number will reach 100,000 this year.”
In order to encourage more Thai people, the Pakistani Ambassador in Bangkok will have to strive hard to promote and market the tourism opportunities in Pakistan. In this regard, Thai Tourism Authority will certainly extend full support and cooperation to Pakistan’s Embassy in Thailand.
Earlier President KCCI Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan, in his remarks, stressed the need to diversify trade between Pakistan and Thailand, besides promoting and marketing the abundant tourism opportunities in both the countries. There are several sightseeing places in Pakistan that have much attraction for Thai tourists, he said, adding that Pakistan needs to enhance marketing of its tourism potential.
He also underscored the need to expedite work on FTA between the two countries while more items must also be added in the FTA list in consultation with stakeholders. “In order to enhance trade and investment ties, we must begin from setting up and achieving small goals and then go for bigger targets”, he said, adding that the neglected areas of trade and investment cooperation must also be taken into consideration by both sides and we should not remain confined to trading the traditional items only.