KARACHI: The Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran Mehdi Honardoost has said that lack of information and know-how about the capabilities of Iran and Pakistan amongst the business communities of the two neighbouring Islamic countries was hindering trade but the situation had been improving as Pakistan-Iran trade volume improved by 31 percent last year. “Business communities of both countries are totally unaware of each other’s capabilities and opportunities, therefore, we have to focus on exchanging information, trade delegations and other promotional activities between the two countries, besides improving ties of Karachi Chamber with its peer chamber in Iran”, he said while speaking at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).Iranian Consul General in Karachi Ahmad Mohammadi, KCCI President Muffasar Atta Malik, Senior Vice President Abdul Basit Abdul Razzak, Vice President Rehan Hanif, former president Majyd Aziz and KCCI managing committee members attended the meeting. Iranian Ambassador said that both countries had many commonalities and similarities which could not be found between other countries of the region.He stated that there was a huge potential of cooperation between the two powers of the region with good neighbourly ties and history of friendship and fraternity. He was of the view that regional problems like terrorism, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking should be solved by regional countries, which have common interests and common concerns.Mehdi Honardoost said that Iran was keen to develop its ties with Pakistan by focusing on enhancing trade which continues to grow each year, exporting electricity to Pakistan, implementing Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline, signing of free trade agreement (FTA) and commencement of banking transactions between the two brotherly countries. “Your rivals are much faster and active than you so you also have to take steps accordingly. You have to grab some more portion of the Iranian market which has a lot of potential for Pakistani goods and services. We are also ready to share almost everything with our Pakistani brothers and sisters”, he added. He said that Iran was particularly interested in some of the giant projects with Pakistan including the Iranian-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project and commencement of banking operations between the two countries. “IP Gas Pipeline project can completely change the face of Pakistan’s economy as cheaper gas being supplied under this project can be used as raw material by industries which would create a lot of job opportunities; whereas, it can also be used for cheaper power generation”, he said, adding that delays in FTA and commencement of banking transactions were impediments to enhanced trade and businesses between the two countries.Referring to high-level meetings between political leaders of the two states and visits of delegations, the ambassador said that increase in exchange of delegations indicated that the horizon for enhanced trade ties was ‘bright and clear’. Honardoost opined that China-Pakistan Economic Project (CPEC) was a multi-functional project which can bring peace and prosperity to the region as all countries of the region will become part of the project.Speaking on the occasion, KCCI President Muffasar Atta Malik informed the Iranian ambassador that Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan, offers profitable opportunities and added facilities for investment and joint ventures to investors from Iran.He was of the view that relations between Pakistan and Iran have improved significantly giving way to further enhancement of bilateral trade. He said that Iran’s decision regarding opening its commercial bank in Pakistan and the availability of letter of credit facility with it, were important steps towards enhancing economic relations.“The bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Iran are healthy and based on trade of several commodities. However, collective efforts are needed from both sides to improve the existing trade volume between the two countries”, he added. He said that negotiations on FTA between Pakistan and Iran were underway as both countries had expressed their willingness to upgrade preferential trade agreement (PTA) into free trade agreement, for which initial drafts had already been shared.Published in Daily Times, December 9th 2017.