FAISALABAD - Spadework has begun to enhance trade volume between Pakistan and Belarus to $1 billion.

Central banks of both countries have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard and now steps are being taken to open branches of banks in each other’s country, said Belarus Ambassador Andrei Ermolovich.

Addressing members of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) here on Thursday, he said the two countries were enjoying good diplomatic and economic relations and the credit for this went to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. He said that on the instructions of the two leaders various institutions were taking necessary measures to achieve the objective.

He said that initially various sectors had been identified where bilateral cooperation could be enhanced. "There is a huge untapped potential in industrial, agricultural, textile, pharmaceutical and other sectors and the two countries can benefit from it," he said.

Ermolovich said the banking system was a prerequisite for major bargains; therefore, a mutually acceptable banking system was being evolved with cooperation of central banks of the two countries. He also highlighted the importance of exchange of trade delegations and said the business community of Pakistan should actively participate in trade exhibitions and fairs being organised in Belarus. He said that Belarus was organising an agriculture and textile fair this year and Pakistani exporters must participate in it. He said the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) was a prestigious and world-class educational and research institution and Belarus wanted the UAF and the National Textile University to collaborate with the universities of his country. He said that he had handed over the draft of the MoU to the vice chancellors of these universities and hopefully it would be signed this year. He said that Belarus was a technologically developed country and its trucks and agriculture appliances were recognised all over the world. He said that in Pakistan only 10 percent of cultivation was made through machines and with enhanced use of agricultural appliances Pakistan could increase its productivity manifold.

Jurabek Kirgizbekov, representative of the Belarus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that his country could help Pakistan in production of powdered milk, ice-cream, yogurt, animal husbandry and canned products. He said that Belarus was part of a five-country alliance, which had no well-marked boundaries. He said that Pakistani exporters could establish their warehouses in Belarus and from there they could make exports to the surrounding countries without any additional customs duty or taxes. Similarly, he said, visa issued by one country was acceptable in all five countries. “Hence, we have to take extra care while issuing visas for Belarus,” he said. He said that many international airlines had flights for different Central Asian States. “We are considering starting direct flights between Pakistan and Belarus,” he said. He said that Pakistani exporters should participate in exhibitions in Belarus and build relations with their counterparts in Belarus.