After cricket teams, now countries are signing off Pakistan in trade deals and in this regard, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has excluded Pakistan from its future trade pacts. The UAE being an important point for Pakistan’s remittances should not be lost over regional political dynamics and should be engaged in talks. In an unprecedent announcement, the UAE excluded Pakistan from the list of countries on future broad economic agreements covering trade and investments. In all, the UAE will trade with eight countries, such as India, Britain and Turkey. Pakistan stands nowhere. The UAE has already put Pakistan under strict visa restrictions making the travelers from Pakistan to Dubai a no-go area. Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s visit to the UAE to convince the royal authorities for a soft visa regime for Pakistan has bear no fruit. That is not the failure of our diplomacy, the changing preferences of the UAE for trade and diplomatic can be blamed. Pakistan cannot afford to neglect the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for its proximity and oil reservoirs besides their diplomatic power in the OIC.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood has adopted a strategy to go for individual trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman instead of taking them as a bloc and engage individual countries preferential trade deals with them in the next 6-12 months. That is not ideal deal as Pakistan would be seeking concessions on a select group of products’ access to host countries. When dealing with a country-level, comprehensive deals are sought but given the animosity running in the GCC, the government’s strategy to seek a limited number of goods’ access to the individual countries seems reasonable. The deals could be expanded in the future. Pakistan is suffering from a perception ordeal, such as security and poor trade performance. From sport to trade and tourism, security and infrastructure matter a lot. The government needs to overcome the perception loss and promote Pakistan’s soft image across the world.