Pakistan PM Khan expected to boost aid and trade from visit to Saudi Arabia

A Pakistani farmer harvests wheat in a field on the outskirts of Lahore. (AFP)
Updated 30 September 2018
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Pakistan PM Khan expected to boost aid and trade from visit to Saudi Arabia

  • Pakistan imports more than $13 billion of oil
  • Agriculture expected to be key focus

KARACHI: Faced with a financial crisis at home, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to Saudi Arabia could provide a much needed boost to the country’s political and economic confidence, experts said on Tuesday.
The trip, which began on Tuesday, holds even more significance as Khan is expected to seek $2-$3 billion in economic aid from the Kingdom, with an urgent need to inject around $9 billion into the economy — to stabilize external accounts largely inflated from high imports and insufficient exports.
“Pakistan expects an injection of around $2 billion to $3 billion in order to stabilize its foreign reserves position, currency and external balance sheet,” Dr. Bilal Ahmed, senior economic analyst, told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan would largely benefit from the visit, especially if the Kingdom is convinced “to supply oil at concessionary rates which would mitigate pressure on the import bill to a large extent.”
During the last fiscal year, 2017-18, the country’s imports of petroleum stood at $13.27 billion, imported from different countries, including Saudi Arabia. “If Pakistan gets the oil at a deferred payment or at relaxed conditions the issue of the country’s cash will be resolved,” Syed Mazhar Ali Nasir, Senior Vice President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry — an apex body of Pakistan’s industrialists and traders — told Arab News.
Bilateral trade will be another key area of focus.
“We should explore avenues for exports to Saudi Arabia by ending tariff and non-tariff barriers that have decreased the trade of goods and services,” Dr. Ikram ul Haq, a senior economist and expert in legal matters, said.
Despite holding great potential, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is only $3.4 billion and largely in favor of Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan imported $3.1 billion worth of goods from the Kingdom during the fiscal year 2017-18, while exports stood at $316.7 million, data shared by the State Bank of Pakistan showed.
Suggesting new means to explore bilateral trade and investment — by relying less on traditional goods and services – Dr. Haq said: “Pakistan should try to win Saudi contracts for IT services as this is the area where we have potential to earn foreign exchange but we never tried. We must come out of traditional items like textile.”
Agriculture is another sector that Pakistan could tap into to seek Saudi investment through joint ventures, Dr. Haq said: “This area has potential to grow fast and create export surplus. Saudis investors can be lured for modern corporate farming in Pakistan to earn substantial profits.”


UAE, Saudi Arabia optimistic world trading system can be restored, says survey

Updated 22 October 2018
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UAE, Saudi Arabia optimistic world trading system can be restored, says survey

  • Three quarters of respondents hopeful of 'working order'
  • Trade disputes cloud horizon in emerging markets

LONDON: More than three-quarters of respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said that the troubled global trading system can be restored to “working order,” according to a survey.
Only 27 percent thought the system would be restored ‘soon’, while 49 percent said it would be a more ‘long-term’ recovery, the Bloomberg research published on Oct. 22 found.
More than half of those surveyed in the two Gulf countries were optimistic that trade will grow in the next five years, with only 26 percent saying there would be less trade over that time period.
The survey findings come just days after the director-general of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, urged action to be taken to avoid “serious harm” to the global trading system, in a speech in London on Oct. 17.
A continuing trade dispute between China and the US has led to the two countries imposing a series of tariffs on various imports.
The survey found that 65 percent of Saudi and UAE respondents said they were learning about new technologies to prepare for the future economy, while a similar proportion were learning new skills and taking professional courses.
Global governance issues were viewed as the most critical issue challenging the future of trade, according to the respondents.
The global survey also found there was a divide in opinion between business leaders in the emerging markets and those in developed countries.
Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of emerging market business professionals said they believe there would be more trade in five years, compared to just 36 percent in developed markets that felt the same way.

“The survey reveals vast differences in perceptions for the future and highlights the need to bring together global leaders in business and government to find private-sector led solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges,” said Justin B. Smith, chief executive officer, Bloomberg Media Group.