ISLAMABAD: Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms. Leslie Scanlon on Wednesday called on Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar to strengthen the trade ties between two countries.
A press note issued from The Minister of Commerce stated on Wednesday that Syed Naveed Qamar appreciated the upcoming Canadian General Preferential Tariff (GPT+) program for developing countries and expressed hope that launching of GPT+ Program in Pakistan would be more beneficial new proposed sectors such as apparel and footwear. And he hoped that Canada will also consider to include more sectors of textiles in the proposed scheme.
Commerce Minister urged for facilitation in issuance of visas to business community for participation in exhibitions and other business events especially for upcoming exhibitions in Canada i.e. Sial Food Fair, (Food & Beverages)
Ms. Leslie Scanlon, Canadian High Commissioner acknowledged Minister’s concerns and assured that Canadian government is working for further facilitation and speeding up the visa process.
Bilateral relationship between Canada and Pakistan as been excellent since two countries established diplomatic ties. Once upon a time, in the early 2000s, Pakistan and Canada had an unremarkable trade relationship. Their bilateral trade stood at a mere $800 million, with Canada exporting a variety of products like machinery, fertilizers, and paper while importing leather, cotton, and sports goods from Pakistan.
However, everything changed in 2005 when the two countries signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which came into force in 2007. The FTA guaranteed increased market access for Pakistan’s exports to Canada, especially textile and apparel products, and allowed Canadian businesses to explore the South Asian market.
In the following years, Pakistan and Canada’s trade ties strengthened exponentially. In 2019, the two-way trade reached $1.3 billion, with Canada exporting diversified goods like heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals, and education services, and Pakistan exporting cotton fabric, rice, and leather goods.
The significant surge in bilateral trade was mainly due to the FTA’s provisions of reduced duties and eliminated tariffs on goods traded between the two countries. It boosted Pakistan’s textile and apparel industry, which contributes more than 60% of the country’s exports income. Canadian companies also benefited from the deal, with some of them setting up their manufacturing units in Pakistan to take advantage of its low-cost labor and export potential.
The FTA also laid the foundation for deeper economic cooperation between the two countries. Canada extended technical assistance to Pakistan in areas like agriculture, energy, and natural resources management. It helped Pakistan establish a comprehensive program to boost agricultural exports and train farmers on modern farming practices. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supported various development projects in Pakistan aimed at improving the country’s healthcare system, promoting gender diversity and empowering women.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic created a significant dent in Pakistan’s export earnings, but its trade relationship with Canada remained resilient. The country exported medical equipment and supplies to Canada, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits when the Canadian government was struggling to secure its domestic supply.
Moreover, the Canadian government announced a $ 7.5 million grant to Pakistan to support the country’s efforts to deal with the pandemic’s economic impact.
However, like any other trade relation, Pakistan and Canada’s bilateral trade ties were not without challenges. For instance, Canadian wheat farmers have repeatedly raised concerns about Pakistan’s strict import regulations that often delay or disrupt wheat shipments. Pakistan’s exporters have criticized Canada’s anti-dumping measures on imports of certain types of steel products, which they claim unfairly restrict Pakistan’s access to the Canadian market.
Nevertheless, these challenges can be overcome through a continuous dialogue and a willingness to negotiate in good faith. The recent visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to Canada, and his meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a testimony to the importance that both countries attached to their economic partnership.
The two leaders recognized the enormous potential of their trade ties and discussed measures to enhance them further. They pledged to deepen their cooperation in areas such as education, science and technology, and renewable energy. In particular, both leaders agreed to work towards diversifying their trade portfolio and explore new areas of collaboration.
In conclusion, Pakistan-Canada bilateral trade relations have come a long way since the early 2000s. The FTA was a decisive turning point that allowed both countries to benefit from their comparative advantages and build a mutually beneficial commercial partnership. Despite some challenges, the two nations have displayed a commitment to strengthen their trade and economic cooperation. It is a testament to the quality of their relationship and the importance they place on.