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Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza GIlani — File Photo

LONDON: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday urged the British investors to focus on Pakistan and not to be overly concerned about the “exaggerated perception” about security situation in Pakistan.

Addressing at a businessmen reception, Prime Minister Gilani said he was cognizant of the concerns about security situation in the region and said the perception was contrary to the situation on ground.

“Despite the negative security perceptions of Pakistan in the media, the trade and investment environment has remained positive,” he said.

Gilani said those who have done business in Pakistan continue to return due to the opportunities offered by the market.

He said the British companies are conducting substantive profitable business and giving attractive dividends to their share holders and the companies create employment and develop our economy.

He said he believed that business plays the most potent role in developing people to people relations and was an essential building block in bilateral relations. He said the presence of powerful global business houses like Hinduja, Shell, Bestway and professional law and accountancy firms here was a sign of interest and confidence of the UK companies in Pakistan.

Gilani urged the British investors to look at Pakistan keenly and encourage the businesses here to use London Stock Exchange as a hub of raising capital for investment in Pakistan.

The prime minister said Pakistan has one of the most investor-friendly regimes in the region and offers a secure, safe and profitable environment to investors in all sectors of economy.

“Investors can avail of opportunities in diverse fields such as renewable energy, software technology parks, cotton and textiles, retail, R&D, oil and gas, chemicals, agriculture, tourism, services and infrastructure projects,” the prime minister said.

The Prime Minister said the UK was the second largest investor country for Pakistan with a total Foreign Direct Investment of 133 million pounds in 2010-11.

Gilani said over 600 foreign companies, many of whom were doing double-digit profitable business in Pakistan for decades. He said over 100 companies were UK based and were taking advantage of Pakistan's natural resources, skilled manpower, competitive manufacturing environment and a huge consumer market.

He said the Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Green was planning to showcase the opportunities for business and investment in Pakistan to UK companies, as he was enthused with the profitability of British business in Pakistan and the openness for investors.

Prime Minister Gilani said his counterpart David Cameron also reaffirmed UK support for Pakistan for greater market access to the European Union, including GSP+ in 2014, which would open even more opportunities for trade and investment.

He said it was all the more significant as the UK was Pakistan's second largest trading partner in the European Union and the roadmap envisages promoting the UK as a gateway to Europe for Pakistani business.

Gilani said the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) provides for 17 transit routes through Pakistan to export its goods to Central Asia. He said as part of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, he and Prime Minister Cameron have launched a Trade and Investment Roadmap to achieve not only the bilateral trade target of 2.5 billion pounds by 2015, but also to raise the level of investment in both the markets.

The premier said Pakistan by virtue of its geographic location at the confluence of Central, South and West Asia, occupies a strategic position in the region to serve as a bridge between the landlocked Central Asian States, Afghanistan and rest of the world.

He said the year 2012 has been designated as the year of “regional trade and economic connectivity”.

“Our trade with India has moved from the positive to negative list and integrated border check posts have opened on both sides of the border and road traffic has increased between the two countries.

The PM said Pakistan's investment policy ensures equal treatment for local and foreign investors and allows 100 per cent foreign equity.

He said Pakistan today has stock of over 30 billion dollars as Foreign Direct Investment in various fields including energy, finance, telecommunications and consumer goods. He said the parliament has also given approval to invest in newly-constituted Special Economic Zones. He said he would like to see more Pakistani companies and investors listed with the LSE.

The event was attended by Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Hafeez Shaikh, Chairman BOI and Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Adam Thomson.