Trade chief MEP, Sajjad Karim, has urged Pakistan to build an economic diversification programme and its business-to-business links with the EU.

He warned that heavily reliance on one product category, such as the textile sector, carries some risks for the country and that diversifying the economy would benefit Pakistan in the medium to long term.

The advice of Dr Karim – who chairs the European Parliament’s South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee – comes after the country’s Federal Minister for Finance, Asad Umer, said that the Government would give the garment industry “special attention” in order to boost exports.

The British MEP is due to visit Pakistan next week with the Parliament’s Delegation for relations with South Asia, where they will meet with top officials, including the newly elected Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmod Qureshi.

Speaking from Strasbourg, France, Dr Karim said:

“Pakistan’s textile industry is one of the country’s greatest assets. Under the GSP+ scheme, it has seen exports – in particular to the EU – boosted beyond any of our expectations. Minister Umer’s drive to boost exports are a welcome step towards enhancing the country’s economy.

“However, it is crucial that trade diversification is more actively pursued. If the country relies too heavily on the textile sector, then it could prove to be risky in the medium to long term.

“Business-to-business links between the EU and Pakistan must also be improved if we are to see an increase in trade and growth. A change of the legislative and regulatory framework is required for intellectual property protections, if business-to-business is to be truly built.

“Furthermore, Pakistan must increase its investment in research & development in order to provide a platform for creativity and innovation to flourish.”

The British MEP also noted the current political situation in the UK regarding Brexit, highlighting that the majority of Pakistan’s textile exports go there, so this would have to be factored into any future policies.

“It is vital that strong links between the UK and Pakistan are maintained following Britain’s departure from the EU and also that Pakistan forges new alliances within the EU, since the UK will no longer be able to act as a bridge between the two. A huge share of Pakistan’s garments are destined for the UK, so this must also be taken into account in any decision-making process.”

Dr Karim was instrumental in Pakistan gaining its coveted GSP+ trade status and in 2015 was awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam – the highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country – joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.