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RAWALPINDI: French Ambassador Dr Marc Baréty on Wednesday said France was keen on developing strong business contacts with Pakistan and focussing on the promotion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

Talking to local traders at the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the French envoy said his country desired to enhance trade with Pakistan in different sectors, including renewable energy, hydropower, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, energy, water and education.

Local traders and industrialists were present on the occasion.

The French envoy gave detailed briefing about the facilities to be provided to the traders to enhance bilateral trade between the two countries.

He said his government had already provided sizeable financial assistance, particularly in the water and hydropower sector.

The ambassador said the current portfolio of financial assistance amounted to €800 to €900 million which came to €100-150 million per annum, adding that the French government was considering increasing the assistance to €500 million per annum depending on the requirements.

Dr Marc Baréty said the bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and France stood at around €1.4 billion.

He called for product diversification, saying that most of the trade between the two countries was in textile sector.

He said that European Union’s Generalize Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus facility to Pakistan had enabled it to enhance 60pc exports to European Union countries.

The ambassador said regulations were being simplified to make business in France easy, adding that a number of taxes had been reduced.

The envoy said an important delegation comprising representatives of renowned French universities would visit Pakistan in April.

He lauded RCCI’s efforts in promoting trade and investment activities in the region through exhibitions and business opportunity conferences.

Earlier, RCCI President Malik Shahid Saleem, in his welcome address, said Pakistan’s economy was an emerging economy and it offered a vast scope of joint ventures in the fields of pharmaceutical, energy, food processing, mining, oil and gas exploration.

He said Pakistan was the best place for investment as things had remarkably improved, adding that the French envoy to ease visa regime for business community and flexibility in travel advisory.

He also gave a short briefing on RCCI current and upcoming events.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2019