Ambassador of Azerbaijan Khazar Farhadov said that Azerbaijan wanted to sign Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Pakistan to boost bilateral economic relations and that it can lead to the three flags of Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey flying together.
He said on Saturday that Azerbaijan has started direct flights from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to Azerbaijan and as a result, 50,000 Pakistanis flown to Azerbaijan last year. This has also helped to increase the trade turnover three times.
He was talking to business community here at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) where LCCI President Kashif Anwar, Azerbaijan Embassy’s 3rd Secretary Behbud Gadali and LCCI Executive Committee members also spoke on the occasion.
The Ambassador recalled that in one and half years, since he came to Pakistan as an ambassador, this was his third visit to LCCI which showed their intent for the business and trade relations with Pakistan.
Lahore Chamber was a biggest chamber and also represented the provincial capital of the largest province of the country, he said and added that this also showed the possibilities and opportunities both countries possessed.
The Ambassador also emphasized on the need for exhibitions which he termed most important and significant to increase bilateral trade.
“We have already delegations from Islamabad and Gujranwala Chambers and we hope to see a delegation from LCCI very soon. We have a very easy visa process which takes only three hours to get Azerbaijan visa. Trade is not only government’s or business community’s task but all the segments of society can also help in this regard as we believe that today’s tourists can be a tomorrow’s trader or student or a high government official.”
He said that Azerbaijan had established a few working groups and also increased the number of those working groups and they were already working to cooperate in energy, health and agriculture sector of Pakistan.
Khazar Farhadov said that private sector must take an active role as relations of both the countries were unique.
“Pakistan has supported us in our war with Armenia and never recognized Armenia because of this occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory. Our people and government highly appreciate Pakistan’s support.”
Azerbaijan had a trade surplus of around US $ 26 billion which showed that they were a successful in term of their business projects, he said and asserted, “We have very good trade relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan has invested US $12 billion in Turkey, while Turkey also invested US $ 10 billion in Azerbaijan."
"We also want same economic relations with Pakistan so that the three flags of Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey can fly together."
He said that they were already importing rice from Pakistan and Pakistani rice had a huge market in Azerbaijan. He said that more than 300 businessmen had visited Azerbaijan which was encouraging.
Azerbaijan had also lifted the duties on rice and it was high time to export rice from Pakistan to Azerbaijan.
LCCI President Kashif Anwar accepted the invitation extended to him by the Azerbaijan Ambassador and also agreed to plan a delegation to Azerbaijan soon.
He said that Azerbaijan was open for all initiatives with private sector, adding that Pakistan and Azerbaijan had good diplomatic relations but they had yet to succeed in translating these ties into maintaining sound bilateral trade.
Kashif Anwar said that according to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistan’s exports to Azerbaijan in 2021-22 were 6.3 million dollars which considerably dropped from 15.5 million dollars in 2020-21.
However, the imports from Azerbaijan improved to 1.5 million dollars from 0.7 million dollars during that period.
He said that there was a need to explore the ways of increasing trade between both countries. The main reason of such a low level of trade was lack of proper information about each other’s markets.
He said that Pakistan’s exports to Azerbaijan were mainly comprised of rice, textile and frozen meat while Pakistan imports petroleum gas from Azerbaijan. There was definitely a need of finding new products lines and avenues of cooperation for enhancing trade between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.