ISLAMABAD: EU ambassador Androulla Kaminara addressing EU-Pakistan Business Forum 2021 on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star
ISLAMABAD: EU ambassador Androulla Kaminara addressing EU-Pakistan Business Forum 2021 on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star

ISLAMABAD: The first-ever EU-Pakistan Business Forum for Small and Medium Enterprises was launched on Wednesday which is aimed at boosting trade with countries in the European Union.

The objective of the forum is to provide opportunities to both EU and Pakistani businesses to work together to become engines of development and partnership and contribute to enhancing bilateral trade.

The business forum will play a key role in bringing together SMEs from the EU and Pakistan to enhance their export orientation as well as collaboration in technology transfer and promotion of businesses.

The inaugural event was attended by representatives of local SMEs from four sectors: gems, jewellery and mining, information technology, handicrafts and fashion-wear as well as travel and tourism.

EU Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara shared her vision to enable Pakistani SMEs to benefit from a wide range of concessions offered under the preferential trade arrangement of Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

The European Commis­sion took actions to remove regulatory and practical obstacles to doing business for the SMEs which provided opportunities for them to scale up their presence in the EU in order to make it easier for SMEs to operate in the EU single market and beyond, she added.

The EU envoy wished to replicate this in Pakistan and said she is prepared to help the government and Pakistan’s business sector to achieve this together. Diversification into other sectors will boost trade and ultimately allow Pakistan to take full advantage of the GSP+.

During the first Isla­mabad session, SME repre­sentatives were app­rised about how they could benefit from the GSP+ Scheme which provides two thirds of tariff lines duty free access to the EU market with the rest on preferential duties. Other sectors including the agricultural and auto-parts manufacturers will be included in subsequent meetings.

Pakistani economy consists of almost 3.3 million SMEs comprising service providers, manufacturing units and start-ups. SMEs make up over 30 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP, account for approximately 25pc of export generation and provide over 70pc industrial employment.

While in the EU, Europe’s 25m SMEs are the backbone of the EU economy and provide two out of three industrial jobs in the region.

Subsequent meetings of the EU Pakistan Business Forum will be held in Lahore and Karachi later this year.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021

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