Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to strengthen economic ties

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi  Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud (L) speak during a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on July 27, 2021. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have agreed to expand the time-tested partnership by developing economic linkages during the Saudi foreign minister’s visit to Islamabad.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, who is on a one-day visit to Pakistan, said that the two sides had “very fruitful discussions” on bilateral matters. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would explore new opportunities “to expand that relationship beyond traditional areas…into much broader investment and cooperation.”

Prince Faisal said his government would encourage businessmen of both countries to explore opportunities for investment in areas such as technology.

Later in the day, Saudi foreign minister called on Prime Minister Imran Khan who stressed to explore new avenues of cooperation and strengthen economic partnership in diverse areas including trade, investment and energy. Discussing regional issues, PM Khan emphasised the need for constructive engagement among the Afghan parties to reach a negotiated political settlement, which was critically important for peace and stability in the region.

Addressing a joint press conference, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the two countries have established the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC) focused on enhancing economic partnership to take the decades-old relationship to a new level. The forum would help “create economic linkages through enhancement of bilateral trade and promotion of investments.” FM Qureshi also highlighted the transformational CPEC project and vast opportunities for Saudi investors in the special economic zones (SEZs).

The two sides agreed to closely work to further strengthen bilateral relations with a particular focus on trade, investments, energy, the environment, and culture. Regional and international issues were also discussed, especially the Afghanistan situation.

Travel restrictions and COVID-19

Pakistani foreign minister also took up the issue of over 400,000 Pakistani workers stranded back home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and vaccine issues. “They are facing challenges… the travel restrictions and the issues of vaccination,” he said.

Saudi foreign minister said his country is working to ease travel restrictions. Prince Faisal also appreciated the contributions of the Pakistani community towards the development of Saudi Arabia, adding that the Saudi government had given COVID-19 jabs to 1.7 million Pakistani workers.

Over two million Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia contributed $7 billion of the total $29 billion remittances the country received in the last fiscal year.