By: Sonia Rivera, Executive Director, Houston International Trade Development Council
It was an honor to have the opportunity to meet the Consul General Honorable Abrar H Hashmi at Pakistan’s Consulate General in Houston.
The Houston International Trade Development Council delegation met with the Consul General to discuss our upcoming Trade Mission to Karachi, Pakistan in March of 2020. The Consul General very graciously provided us with valuable insight into the heritage, culture, beauty, and trade opportunities of Pakistan.
Sonia: What are the leading industries in Pakistan that our delegation should look into when looking for trade opportunities?
Consul General Hashmi: The United States is the top single country export destination of Pakistan, with approximately 16% of Pakistan’s exports worth $3.5 billion. China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam are competitors of Pakistan in the US market. Pakistan’s major exports to the United States are articles of apparel and home textiles, leather and surgical products, cotton fabrics and yarn, plastics, carpets, and rice. Pakistan’s main imports from the United States are electrical machinery, equipment, medicines, dry fruit, perfumes, coffee, and other food items. There are opportunities in non-traditional areas of Services, petroleum, Tourism, medicine, organic food processing and schemes of exportation to third countries with whom Pakistan has preferential trade arrangements.
Pakistan is also analyzing and strategizing to enhance the utilization rate under US-GSP*.
*The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) provides duty-free treatment to goods of designated beneficiary countries. The program was authorized by the Trade Act of 1974 to promote economic growth in the developing countries and was implemented on January 1, 1976 (U.S. Customs and Border Protection).
Sonia: What would you like visitors to know about Pakistan?
Consul General Hashmi: 1) Pakistan is listed as a top 20 places to visit in Forbes Magazine, 2) Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is one of the safest capitals of the world; 3) Pakistan is the 6th top reformer in the world and top reformer in South Asia for 2020 ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ of the World Bank; 4) Moody’s revised Pakistan’s economic outlook upward to ‘positive’ in its October rating; 5) Pakistan in 2019 introduced ease of travel and tourism. E-visa platform, launched in March 2019, provides up to 5 years tourist and family visa, and above all, visa-on-arrival for US businessmen; and 6) Pakistan is home to over 200 million hospitable people, characteristic cuisine, rich history and culture and boasts beautiful landscapes including for mountaineers and trekkers and Pakistan’s over 90% landmass is still unexplored.
Sonia: What are Pakistan’s greatest assets?
Consul General Hashmi:
• With over 200 million population and 60% under 30 years, we have a productive workforce;
• Pakistan’s recent bold and inclusive economic development agenda is recognized globally,
• Tourism, medicine and education sectors provide a good basis for investment in expansions,
• Huge potential in housing with demand of 2 million units annually and a shortfall of 6 million,
• Religious and adventure tourism are two promising areas with Sikh, Buddhist and famous Islamic saint shrines. Pakistan is also home to three tallest mountain ranges of Hindukush, Himalaya and Karakorum. North Pakistan has the densest concentration of the highest peaks in the world within an arc of 21 KMs, 81 peaks are above 21000 feet above sea level.
Sonia: What are the biggest opportunities for investors and individuals interested in doing business in Pakistan?
Consul General Hashmi: One of the most attractive reasons for individuals interested in doing business in Pakistan is the general ease of doing business, emerging markets include hospitality, travel, and tourism, technology, infrastructure, environmental services, drainage/water sanitation, and medical tourism.
Government of Pakistan has a very liberal Investment Policy and a large number of incentives are offered under different schemes for investors. In general, 100% foreign ownership allowed, no minimum requirement for foreign equity investment and option to repatriate profits, dividends and any other funds in investor’s own currency etc. Pakistan gives exclusive incentives for investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export Processing Zones (EPZs). For example, for SEZs a single window facility is available for 3 modes of investment, Tax holidays, and duty exemption for import of plant and machinery etc.
In the tourism industry, there are numerous opportunities for investors and developers to build resorts on the more than 1050 km of Pakistani coastline and along major trade routes. Religious Tourism is another area of promise. Pakistan is custodian of holiest Sikh places including birth and burial place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Ji and those of Buddhism at Taxila, Takhtbai and Swat. The marvels in Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan with many artistic imprints of Mughals and colonial era, are a must visit.
Since Houston International Trade Development Council delegation met with the Consul General to discuss our upcoming Trade Mission to Karachi, Pakistan in March of 2020 I must add here without doubt Karachi is Pakistan’s Commercial capital. It is the biggest and most diverse city of Pakistan It boasts a sprawling metropolis with most international businesses headquartered. The people are very welcoming and Karachi provides excellent lodging, shopping and gastronomy facilities.
In closing, there are many reasons to visit Pakistan from its historical, and cultural attractions to the numerous business opportunities, the HITDC leadership is greatly humbled and grateful for the hospitality of the honorable Consul General Abrar H. Hashmi and his office in providing us with a wealth of information that will assist in the HITDC delegation’s trade mission to Karachi, Pakistan.
The Consul General also visited HITDC headquarters and presented the investment opportunities to the perspective delegates and other participants. The Consul General along with newly arrived Commercial Secretary Shaista Bunyad, interacted with and responded to the questions of participants on investment, security,
trade and tourism in