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Great Union Day of Romania

December 15, 2021 at 8:12 am | Economic Affairs

By Dr. Zafar Iqbal

On behalf of the people of the government and people of Pakistan, I congratulate the Romanian government and people as they celebrate Great Union Day. As they mark this special day, I wish peace, prosperity, and good health to all the Romanians, living inside Romania or celebrating abroad.

I also take this opportunity to reaffirm Pakistan’s desire to deepen our longstanding close and cordial relations with Romania.

For Pakistan, Romania has always been a valued and important partner and steadfast friend not only in the bilateral context but both countries have a longstanding history of having similar views on major regional international issues.

For Pakistan, Romania has always been a valued and important partner and steadfast friend not only in the bilateral context but both countries have a longstanding history of having similar views on major regional international issues.

Pakistan and Romania have enjoyed cordial relations ever since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations. Romania extended its friendly cooperation during Pakistan’s efforts aimed at industrialization of our country in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Romanian engineers played a commendable role in establishing cement and fertilizer plants in Pakistan and expanding our National Oil refinery in Karachi. Pakistani nation looks at these icons of friendship with commendation and gratitude. Our deeply entrenched bilateral economic relations during these decades have become a permanent feature of the strong ties between our two countries.

Over the past two decades or so, both Pakistan and Romania have traversed political and economic trajectories that were more regional in character. This led both countries to focus more on their own regional dynamics.

However, during the past few years, there has been an increasing realization by both countries that there is a need to reset our economic relations on the earlier path of deeper collaboration and support.

The reasons for the above reorientation are obvious. While Pakistan can serve as a cost effective, energy and transport corridor for Romania, with its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Romania can also assume the role of nodal point for Pakistan’s easy access to the rest of Europe through the former’s well established port system. Furthermore, both countries can benefit more through direct cost-effective trade, rather than sourcing these commodities indirectly. One can therefore safely say that it is a win-win scenario for both our countries.

Regular high level exchange of views is a feature of our bilateral relations with this important European country in those years. We engage with Romania on bilateral fora as well as on the platform of the European Union. Romania has been supportive to Pakistan during our interaction with the European Union. It was under the EU Presidency of Romania that Pakistan and the European Union inked their Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP), which provides the framework for greater cooperation and stronger ties between the two sides. The Embassy remains engaged with the Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) to apprise them about our issues which can be addressed in the European Parliament, thus increasing our trade with the European Union including Romania.

Various spheres of our relations including political leadership’s engagement, academia & think tank collaboration, cooperation in higher education, and trade and commerce are witnessing significant improvement.

Over the past two decades or so, both Pakistan and Romania have traversed political and economic trajectories that were more regional in character. This led both countries to focus more on their own regional dynamics.

Regular high level contacts between the two countries continue to further strengthen our friendship. In October last year, Foreign Secretaries of both countries had a detailed exchange of views. Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a telephonic conversation with the Foreign Minister of Romania in summer this year. This was followed by a meeting between the two Foreign Ministers in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session.

Both sides are expected to hold the next session of Bilateral Political Consultations soon. We are also working together to have an exchange of visits at the Foreign Ministers level which could be possibly followed by VVIP level exchange of visits. If the pandemic allows and the visits could be realized, these could further boost bilateral engagement between Pakistan and Romania.

Enhancing think tank and academic collaboration as well as cooperation in higher education with Romania remains one of our priorities. In December 2020, the Middle East Political & Economic Institute Bucharest signed an MoU on collaboration with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

This year two more MoUs have been signed between Pakistani think tanks and their Romanian counterparts – one between Romanian Institute of Europe and Asia Studies (IRSEA) and the ISSI Islamabad and another between IRSEA and Centre for Global and Strategic Studies (CGSS) Islamabad.

Academic linkages have also been facilitated between universities (Bucharest University and Politehnica University on Romanian side Punjab University and Quaid-e-Azam University on Pakistan’s side).

Trade and economic relations between our two countries have significantly enhanced. This year’s January to October trade figures show 78 percent rise in Pakistan’s export to Romania.

I believe, our partnership in economic area has significant potential to grow further for the benefit of our two peoples.For expanding Pakistan’s exports to the entire spectrum of Romanian import market, we conducted a market research last winter. This market research report categorized the Romanian import commodities into three broader segments; the first segment wherein Romania’s overall imports are valued at more than US$ 01 billion annually, the second wherein Romania’s imports are valued over US$ 100 million but less than US$ 1 billion (or US$ 1000 million), and the third segment wherein Romania’s imports are valued at less than US$ 100 million per annum.

Among these three segments, the report which was shared with all the chambers and trade related organizations in Pakistan, recommended enhanced focus on specific items. In terms of services sector, Romania’s main focus of imports includes Commercial services; Travel; other business services; Transport; as well as Telecommunications, computer, and information services. At present, Romania remains dependent on the EU countries and the US for its imports. Among the EU countries, Germany, UK, France and Italy are the main service providers to Romania.

Pakistan is currently focused on Construction sector of Romania for provision of semi-skilled and skilled labor. We also have a very limited presence in Romania’s IT as well as oil & gas sectors in terms of skilled technical and professional expertise. For Pakistan, Telecommunications, computer, and information services could offer prospects.

In terms of the products that Pakistan is currently focusing in terms of exports to Romania, apparel sector, optical items and toys are the three areas where Romanian imports are currently witnessing an increase in demand while for textiles and products of animal origin, it remains stable. In addition, in cotton, leather and rice sectors, we enjoy significant comparative advantages as well as unexplored potential that could be explored.

Accordingly, the five priority existing areas where Pakistan could enhance its focus include Apparel, Home textiles, Cotton (fabric), Skins, leather & products thereof, as well as Rice. Based on the parameters of Actual Exports, Export Potential and Untapped Potential, the specific items that we could focus on in terms of enhancing exports to Romania could include (i) Men’s or boys’ suits, ensembles, jackets, blazers, trousers bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts (other than swimwear); (ii) Bed linen of cotton, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen; (iii) Toilet/kitchen linen of terry fabrics; (iv) Woven fabrics of cotton, (containing 85% or more by weight of cotton, weighing more than 200 g/m2); (v) Apparel and clothing accessories, of leather or of composition leather such as gloves; and (vi) Semi-milled or wholly milled rice.

For Pakistani exporters, it is important to take cognizance of the market mechanism in which Romania is operating as a member of EU. Pakistan is a beneficiary of EUs GSP Plus Scheme which provides zero duties on two-thirds of tariff lines. We, thus, avail preferential treatment on our exports if we meet EU standards.

We are working with Pakistani and Romanian economic/trade entities to create an enabling environment wherein business communities of both sides could interact more and feel facilitated. Our main focus, in this context, is on establishing a direct interface among business communities, establishing institutional linkages between different Chambers of the two countries, providing information on Pakistan’s export market to Romanian business entities, sharing details of Romanian companies involved in different business activities with the relevant Pakistani counterparts, and expediting services for Romanian business delegates travelling to Pakistan. Creating awareness as well as providing swift information are among our top priorities. I believe enhanced awareness about Pakistan among the Romanian business firms and vice-versa helps both sides make informed business decisions and leads to a sustainable improvement in bilateral trade.

The Embassy continues to focus on promoting Pakistan as a source of replenishing inventories for Romanian importers. Apparel, home textiles, cotton, rice, and leather products have significant unexplored export potential in Romania.

For Pakistani exporters, it is important to take cognizance of the market mechanism in which Romania is operating as a member of EU. Pakistan is a beneficiary of EU’s GSP Plus Scheme which provides zero duties on two-thirds of tariff lines. We, thus, avail preferential treatment on our exports if we meet EU standards.

I am sure that, through coherent plans and right focus, relations between Pakistan and Romania will further strengthen in the coming days in diverse areas including trade and commerce, human resource, higher education, culture, security and defence.

In the end, again I wish all the Romanians celebrating at home or abroad a happy Great Union Day! La multi ani Romania!

The writer is ambassador of Pakistan to Romania.

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