The Second Pakistan – Belgium Business and Investment Opportunities Conference jointly organized by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) and Brussels Enterprises Commerce and Industry (BECI) took place this weekend. A 30 member strong delegation of RCCI led by its president Zahid Latif Khan and businessmen from different regions of Belgium participated in the conference. The RCCI and BECI had signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the conclusion of First Business and Investment Conference held in Brussels in May this year. Both the chambers are keen in promoting trade and investment for the mutual benefit of the two countries. Speaking on the occasion Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg Mrs Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi said, “Pakistan is emerging not only economically but also socially and politically”. She said that the recently held general elections in Pakistan have proved strengthening of democratic values in Pakistan. She further pointed out that with the improvement in law and order situation and tackling of energy crises to a greater extent, people of Pakistan have started looking for expanding business ties with outside world and the world has also started approaching Pakistan. She reckoned surge in the number of tourists visiting Pakistan, as 2017 saw an increase of 30% in the number tourists who visited Pakistan. Ambassador Hashmi appreciated the initiative of RCCI for bringing Business delegations to Belgium on regular basis. Highlighting the significance of Belgium in Pakistan’s trade scenario she informed that, as Pakistan’s 9th largest export destination globally, Belgium remained important for exploring more opportunities for business and investment. She said that a second visit of RCCI within two months reflects seriousness of both sides to increase trade relations. Pakistan’s exports to Belgium have increased by 6% since 2015 and stood at 421 Million EUR in 2017. Pakistan’s exports mainly constitute home textiles, surgical goods, sports goods, apparel, leather, cotton and food items especially rice. Ambassador Hashmi called for diversifying exports and also to tap opportunities for investments in Pakistan. Talking about areas of collaboration Ambassador Hashmi said that Belgium could help Pakistan by transfer of technology in the fields of pharmaceuticals, agriculture machinery, dairy products, processing of fruits and vegetables, fisheries and mineral development. Besides this huge potential existed for technical assistance from Belgium in port handling, dredging, science and technology, she added. Secretary General BECI Jan de Brabanter welcomed the delegation of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In his presentation he pointed out that due to its central location Belgium serves as the heart of Europe for exports to other destinations. President RCCI Mr. Zahid Latif Khan in his address informed about the business and investment opportunities in various sectors in Pakistan. He said that reality is different in Pakistan against what is portrayed in media and there was a need for more visits of Belgian businessmen to Pakistan in order to acquaint themselves with real potential of the country. He referred to Investment Policy of Pakistan which allows 100% foreign ownership in manufacturing and social sectors and exemption from customs duty on import of plant, machinery and equipment under various schemes. He further pointed out that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were being set up in all the provinces and regions of Pakistan including AJK, GB and FATA. Khan said that immense potential for investment and collaboration existed in the areas of energy, light engineering, steel manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, textile, food processing, IT and halal food industry. During the conference documentaries on ‘Emerging Pakistan’ and ‘Investment Regime of Pakistan’ were also screened. Both the sides exchanged mementos. Ambassador Hashmi also presented made in Pakistan official football of FIFA tournament ‘Telstar’ to Secretary General BECI as a memento. Published in Daily Times, August 6th 2018.