The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — a project worth more than $57 billion — is not only attracting investors from Switzerland but also urging other European countries to be attentive.
Swiss Business Council’s (SBC) Pakistan chapter has expressed keen interest in inviting European investors and tradesmen to consider potential of trading through the CPEC route — a cheaper and faster alternative. The Swiss mission in Pakistan and the leadership of Swiss Business Council have jointly taken this initiative with plans to soon hold a big conference in this regard.
Recognising the importance of the subject, the Embassy of Switzerland in Pakistan and the SBC, recently, also organised a session for ‘Opportunities for the European Investors in CPEC’, attended by a mix of diplomats in Pakistan, and business leaders from the corporate and public sector.
CPEC offers opportunities in infrastructure and energy projects in the 29 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) being set up all over Pakistan. These SEZs provide investment opportunities for industrial and commercial activities as well as supplies, contracting and services in power sector; sectors such as oil and gas, mines and minerals, large industry, small and medium industry, healthcare, education, banking, hospitality industry, engineering, consultancy and construction services.
The SBC believes, at the outset, CPEC can be perceived to be ‘China-Pakistan centric’ but the vision and the overall concept rolled out by both countries is globalisation in action — opening-up Central and South East Asia with better connectivity and access to one of the world’s largest growing markets. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road focus on connectivity and cooperation extending from China and the rest of Eurasia. The coverage area of this initiative is Asia and Europe encompassing 60 countries inclusive of Oceania and East Africa.
The anticipated cumulative investment is a staggering 4-8 trillion USD. Under this vision of globalisation, CPEC is the backbone of connectivity and economic development. The fast-changing political, social and economic dynamics in the region have encouraged Central Asian states, Eurasia and Europe to express their interest in the economic development in the region.
Farhat Ali, President of SBS, talking to TNS, underlines that European companies put together make for the largest Foreign Direct Investment in Pakistan. They have historic social and business ties with Pakistan, and Asia at large where their impressive footprints in culture, social sector and business segments are visible and above all the great people-to-people contact over decades.
“For mutual benefits, there is a need for them to capitalise on their strong credentials in these times of changing economic, social and political dynamics in Central and South Asian Region where Pakistan is geographically and strategically well-positioned,” he states.
“There are opportunities for European investors in energy, oil and gas as well as in construction, pharmaceutical and other sectors,” Ali says, adding, “All fields are open for European investors. He said that CPEC would prepare Pakistan for economic betterment and despite security concerns, foreign investors, especially from European countries, are ready to invest in CPEC.
“It is a positive development that foreign investors are once again looking at Pakistan with interest. Noticing the changing trend, Swiss Business Council, with the support of its partner, Switzerland Global Enterprise (SGE), which is a Trade Development Authority of Switzerland, took up the initiative and has successfully linked many Swiss and Pakistani Small and Medium Enterprises through investments in joint ventures, technology transfer and business representation.
Encouraged with this positive development in 2016, SBC and SGE have marked 2017 as the year to establish Swiss companies’ footprint in Pakistan and vice versa. For this reason, besides other initiatives, SBC together with SGE and other Business Chambers of Switzerland is organising in early July 2017 a number of events in Switzerland “to invite Swiss Companies to Pakistan.”
Swiss Ambassador to Pakistan Marc P George feels this is good time to start discussing the project and how Europe can benefit from it.
Speaking at the function held at Swiss Embassy, he said “Pakistan has reached consensus on social stability, economic development and livelihood improvement. The economic reforms have started to take effect and its advantages are filtering down to the middle class and the young and talented workforce aspiring for a better life. The youth of this country is an asset which needs to be capitalised by creating more jobs after providing them education and adequate trainings. The macro economy has turned for better in Pakistan in recent years,” he states. He also says that the inflation level has been low, foreign reserves have been growing and the expectation of the exchange rate has been stable.
“Generally speaking, the security situation in the country has improved, the economic growth has been picking up, boosting the market demand in the consumer industry, service industry, transportation and energy and other infrastructure sector. While growing, environment protection is a major challenge for this country. The development projects will have to take into consideration the environmental constraints for a better future of this country. Over-all the macroeconomic environment of Pakistan has significantly improved and offers foreign investors a variety of investments and business opportunities to contribute to the development of Pakistan and the region,” he adds.
CPEC has opened the doors to foreign investment in Pakistan, which will improve the local economy and peoples’ livelihood, said a recent report in Global Times online read. In the beginning of 2017, in Davos, Pakistani and Swiss leadership also met to explore the potential of their bilateral ties in term of new avenues of cooperation for mutual benefits. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard on the sidelines of the 47th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Currently, there are 14 Swiss companies trading in Pakistan in different sectors.