Ambassador of Republic of Croatia Dr Drago Stambuk has said that although Croatia and Pakistan were friendly countries but the trade exchange was ‘not strong enough to be proud of’ so the Croatian Embassy was trying its best to improve it.
“My duty is to put the business people of both sides together so I’ll be arranging political as well as economic consultations between the two countries so that bilateral trade could be improved. “, he added while speaking at a meeting during his visit to Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Honorary Consul General of Croatia in Karachi Mirza Imran Baig, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, Senior Vice President Altaf A. Ghaffar, Vice President Tanveer Ahmed Barry, Former President Majyd Aziz, and KCCI Managing Committee Members were also present at the meeting.
Croatian Ambassador said, “Mirza Imran Baig’s appointment as Honorary Consul General of Croatia in Karachi is going to be the extended hand of Croatian Embassy. He will be responsible for exploring ways and means to not only improve trade but also facilitate issuance of visas.”
While identifying delays in issuance of visas as a major bottleneck hindering trade, the Envoy assured that efforts were being made to solve this problem. In this regard, discussions were held with Croatian Honorary Consul General in Karachi whose initiatives to ease visa issuance process will be fully supported.
He informed Croatia, which is a member of Euro zone, holds fantastic geo-political position with big ports and railways network, hence, work was underway to make Croatia the hub for Central and South-Eastern Europe. “However, Croatia is demographically falling down and it needs people especially skilled and young people. Pakistan holds very good human resource, well-educated English-speaking population along with devoted and intelligent businessmen. I would like to see more Pakistanis coming to Croatia and working in various sectors of our country particularly the tourism industry, which receives millions of tourists every year and it sometimes becomes very difficult to cope so many visitors”, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Honorary Consul General of Croatia in Karachi Mirza Imran Baig said that business potential for Pakistanis was incredible in Croatia which was a gateway to Europe bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, besides sharing maritime border with Italy which was of huge significance. “Trade between Croatia and Pakistan has been steadily growing as Pakistan’s exports to Croatia have been improving at a pace of 7.71 percent annually while Croatia exports to Pakistan have also been rising by 4 percent. Though it’s a positive sign but still not enough as there is space for tremendous growth.”
“To deal with delays in issuance of visas, we are looking into the possible of opening a Drop Box service in Pakistan which will be made available but it will take time as three countries including Croatia, Iran and Pakistan are involved”, he assured, adding that Croatian Embassy located in Iran designates over Pakistan as well.
He also hinted towards taking a trade delegation to Croatia in collaboration with Karachi Chamber by mid this year and also initiate a Business Council so that all types of trade related issues between Croatia and Pakistan could be dealt under one umbrella.
Earlier, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, while welcoming the Croatian Ambassador, stated that despite immense trade and export potential, Pakistan’s exports to Croatia were meager, which stood at around $25 million in FY23 as compared to around $41 million in FY22. “The European Union has been the largest export destination for Pakistan. Our total exports to EU stood at around 30 percent of the total exports of $27.73 billion witnessed in FY23, of which goods worth US$8.4 billion were exported to EU remained.”
He said that Pakistan was a big market of around $339 billion and has tremendous potential for strategic investment in sectors including energy, petroleum, textiles, SMEs, health, safety cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, startups and technology infrastructure including IT parks etc. “Pakistan has abundant human resources with cheap labor costs, which offers a great opportunity for Croatian investors in the field of technical & skills development for its youth to boost productivity.”
He mentioned that due to absence of Croatian visa issuing office here, Pakistani businessmen have to travel to Iran for visa application process. “Consequently, personal visits to Iran not only increase businessmen’s expenses but also waste a lot of time. This obstacle has emerged as a significant factor contributing to the limited volume of exports between Pakistan and Croatia. The Croatian Honorary Counsel General in Karachi should, therefore, be allowed to issue visas for Pakistani businesses on KCCI’s recommendation”, he suggested.