Dubai: Bilateral trade between UAE and Pakistan stood at $9 billion (Dh33.03 billion) in 2014 and there is a vast potential to enhance trade and business relations between the two countries, Ashraf Wathra, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan said.

Pakistan’s exports to UAE reached $1.75 billion in 2014, representing seven per cent of Pakistan’s total exports. Food and textile top the list of exports commodities.

Pakistan imports from UAE stood at $7.3 billion in 2014, with oil and gold topping the list of products.

Wathra made these remarks on the sidelines of a conference held in Dubai by IMF and Pakistan Minister of Finance on Thursday.

Currently, the UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries could expand further due to the government endeavours to improve the business climate, the trade regime, and public sector enterprises to increase foreign and domestic private investment and boost economic growth, Wathra said.

While the number of Pakistanis in the UAE estimated at 1.7 million in 2013, Wathra said that 20 per cent of workers’ remittances come from the UAE. The figure stood at $3.1 billion in 2014.

He added that most Pakistani business activities in the UAE are large corporate or small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

UAE investment in Pakistan

While most of the UAE investments in Pakistan are businesses involved in oil and gas, mining, petroleum refining, investments in the banking sectors top the list, Wathra said.

Four UAE banks are operating in Pakistan such as Bank Al Falah, in which UAE firms hold 42 per cent shares, Burj Bank (10 per cent), lslami Bank (25 per cent) and Dubai Islamic (90 per cent).

On the other side, there are two major banks, Habib Bank and United Bank that were operating in the UAE since 1970 and has played a major role in the banking industry.

Performance of the banking sector remained robust as earning surge, asset quality improved and solvency strengthened, Wathra said.

The government is running a reform programme across the banking industry, which is expected to boost this segment. Currently, there are 13,000 branches of the banks based in Pakistan, he added.

Highlighting the potential for investment in Pakistan, Wathra said that oil and gas, energy, telecommunication, service provider are very rewarding sectors in term of business return.