CPEC playing a role in channelizing notion of economic diplomacy: PBF leader

Lahore: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is playing a role in channelizing the notion of economic diplomacy in policy-making arenas, a top official of the Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) said.

“Indubitably, CPEC has the potential to become a breeding ground for Pakistan’s venture of economic diplomacy not only through special economic zones but also by enhancing regional connectivity in multifarious manner,” said forum’s Deputy Secretary General (Economic) Dr Laraib Elahi while addressing the PBF executive committee here.

She maintained that it was a widely accepted fact that economy was central to foreign policy and was curated in accordance to it.

Since geo-economics shaped geopolitics, she added, it was indispensable to ensure economic amplification through diplomatic means to build and maintain regional influence.

She asserted that it would not be wise to bifurcate economic policy and foreign policy, as it was an effective tool of national security as well. She said that the West had realised the importance of economic diplomacy and had set up European Union – the biggest trade bloc, with more than 100 countries in trade relations – was the epitome of building trade superstructure over diplomatic infrastructure.

The EU started its envious journey from a treaty of merely six countries trading in just two goods (European coal and steel community) ultimately coalescing the entire continent, she added.

Dr Laraib Elahi observed that Pakistan’s trade outreach was limited to European states that stretched to American continent for most. “If it coupled with aggressive yet prudent diplomacy supplemented with local think tanks or NGOs, the reach could turn global within no time. No doubt the centre of gravity for the global economy had now shifted from the West to Asia and Africa, later it would be labelled as the ‘Continent of the Future’ owing to its promising economic potential and lucrative investment. In this perspective, Pakistan would also have to diversify its exports by focusing more on the CPEC,” she contended.

According to US Department of Agriculture, she mentioned, Pakistan’s domestic rice consumption was 3.7 million tonnes and exportable supply had been 7.3 million tonnes during financial year 2021-22, this large surplus was an opportunity to bolster exports, and it happened only through rigorous economic diplomacy.

However there was a dire need to institutionalize the ethos of economic diplomacy to keep pace with rest of the world, Dr Laraib Elahi remarked.