The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recently received a 6-member Pakistani business delegation that intends to explore business opportunities in the Philippines and strengthen economic ties between the Philippines and Pakistan.

“The Philippines and Pakistan are similar. We have almost same population size. We are looking at strong economic growth, import and export and industrial opportunities. One of our major focus is to get strong manufacturing growth,” DTI Undersecretary Ponciano C. Manalo, Jr. said during the delegation’s courtesy call on him.

The Pakistani delegation is led by Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Zakaria Usman. The delegation is a combination of possible investors, buyers and sellers from various sectors such as manufacturing, renewable energy, petrochemicals, financial services, textiles, ceramics, garments, food, and shipping.

Usman said that they are here to work together with the government and the private sector to enhance bilateral relations and increase business for both countries.

In 2013, total trade between the two countries only stood at US$90.34 million. Pakistan ranks as the Philippines’ 49th trading partner.

Commercial Counsellor John Paul B. Iñigo said various undertakings are currently being made to enhance the business relationship between the two countries. These include Pakistani businessmen’s participation in the October 2014 Manila FAME, a proposed Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) delegation to visit Pakistan to present investment opportunities in Mindanao, and a proposed Philippine Franchising Association’s (PFA) participation in the Expo Pakistan 2014 / 2015.

Manalo said that at this early phase in strengthening two countries’ trade relations, low hanging fruits such as the import and exports of food can be considered.

Usman also expressed strong interest to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and will make a study on this agreement.

Earlier in the delegation’s visit, the FPCCI signed an agreement with Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to set up a joint business council to carry out systematically business promotional activities in trade, investment, technology transfer, services and others. The council is also expected to provide regular and recognized forum for discussion and promotion of these activities between businessmen and industries of the two countries.

The DTI also organized a business forum for the Pakistani delegation that included presentations on the Philippine business climate and investment opportunities by the Board of Investments, tourism investment opportunities by the Department of Tourism (DOT), presentation on the Zamboanga Economic Zone by ZamboEcoZone Authority.

During this briefing, Usman emphasized that it was important to keep in touch for the benefit of both countries. He also said that he intends go back to the Philippines with another business delegation.

The FPCCI was established in 1950 and is a private umbrella trade organization composed of 48 Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Pakistan. It has links to more than 100 trade association in the country and has 1000 sub-committees.