At a time when Pakistan’s economy is struggling with ever widening trade deficit, some of our export markets are displaying exceptional growth. Italy is among the countries where Pakistan’s exports have been rising phenomenally despite the tough market conditions caused by the COVID health emergency, said a statement issued here on Tuesday. Italy has become ‘billion dollar’ export market for Pakistan for the first time ever. In the first 11 months of this year, our exports to Italy increased 46pc which is highest growth rate among all of our export destinations in Europe. In this period, Pakistan’s trade surplus with Italy has increased 84pc. Just three years ago, Pakistan actually had a trade deficit of $148m with Italy. In the last three years, despite the pandemic driven market disruptions, Pakistani trade with Italy not only recovered from the deficit but has turned around to post a trade surplus of half a billion dollar. This remarkable achievement owes much to the resilience and dynamism of Pakistani entrepreneurs in the export sector, ably supported by Pakistan embassy in Italy. Ambassador to Italy, Jauhar Saleem, has been regularly briefing media about the Embassy’s initiatives for trade, investment and remittances enhancement, including engagement with the host government, industry associations, business leaders, chambers of commerce and SMEs. Pakistan’s exports to Italy have crossed $1002m during the first 11 months of this financial year with the value-added sectors becoming the main driver of growth that has produced a trade surplus of around half a billion dollar. That too at a crunch time for the country reeling from record trade deficits. From an increasingly diversified export basket, home textiles, leather, rice, plastic products, surgical instruments, general fitness equipment and auto-parts have been the top performing product lines. In the wake of the pandemic led health consciousness, Pakistan’s exports of articles of general fitness have also increased by over 100pc, while export of plastic products has increased 356pc, making Italy Pakistan’s 4th largest export destination for plastic products. Pakistan also further improved its position as the market leader in rice sector with its exports increasing by another 31pc. The embassy has been specially engaging with sourcing firms and investors so as to leverage the pandemic hit conditions to Pakistan’s advantage in terms of enhanced focus of Italian importers on Pakistan, which has helped promote greater B2B interaction as well as exchange of delegations. Recently, a 10- member buying mission from Italian leather sector visited Pakistan, and another delegation will be visiting TEXPO Pakistan in August 2022. On the other side. a 22-member delegation of PFMA is visiting Italy from 11-15 June 2022 and a 35 member delegation from leather sector will be visiting Italy in September 2022. Chairman Pakistan Footwear Manufacturers Association (PFMA), Zahid Hussain has, in a press statement, recognized the support of Pakistan Embassy Rome for footwear exporters in recovering from the challenging conditions and getting back on growth trajectory in the Italian market. He appreciated the role of the Embassy in establishing Pak-Italy Footwear Technology Institute at Lahore that is playing a vital role in inducing competitiveness and modernization of Pakistan’s footwear sector. There has also been an unprecedented inflow of workers remittances from Italy to Pakistan in the last couple of years. The overall growth in workers remittances from Italy has been almost 50pc in the first 10 months of this year, making Italy Pakistan’s biggest source of remittances in the EU and the 7th largest in the world. Workers remittances are expected to cross 850m by the end of the current financial year. Both countries are also working on a Labour Agreement which would open new opportunities for Pakistani skilled and semi-skilled workers in the Italian market The FDI from Italy has also witnessed promising growth during the current year. As health concerns and travel restrictions relating to COVID abate, corporate travelling from Italian businesses to Pakistan is picking up fast. Many Italian investors are currently negotiating and finalizing investment deals; especially in the areas of food processing, construction, chemicals, energy, textile, leather, and IT. Italy’s largest player in the energy sector ENEL is also exploring Pakistani market for investment. The embassy is providing all required support to facilitate the growing investments, particularly in a JV mode so to promote the flow of technology and know-how as well. The overall Pakistan-Italy commercial cooperation in the three main sectors of economic engagement is now worth $2.5b, which is the second highest in the European Union after Germany.