In continuation of MEDEF International's visit to Pakistan in April 2019 and in order to assess Pakistan's economic situation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, a Webinar titled "Le Pakistan face à la crise du Covid-19 ("Pakistan Faces the COVID 19 Crisis") was held on 12th May 2020. The WEBINAR was jointly organized by the Embassy of Pakistan, Paris, MEDEF International and Board of Investment (BoI) Pakistan. Mr. Thierry Pflimin, President Pakistan France Business Council (PFBC) moderated the event. The following were the key note speakers during the event:

Mr. Atif Bukhari, Chairman/ Minister of State, Board of Investment (BoI)
Ambassador, Moin Ul Haque, Ambassador of Pakistan, France.
Ambassador, Dr Marc Barety, Ambassador of France to Pakistan
Mr. Thierry Pflimin, President Pakistan France Business Council (PFBC)
Mme Nora SUSBIELLE, Area Manager, Director General Treasury

The WEBINAR was attended by over thirty participants including Pakistani entrepreneurs and French businessmen either already engaged in business with Pakistan or exploring the possibility of such business in the future. (List of participants enclosed).

Mr. Thieryy Pflimn welcomed the participants with a special note of thanks to the honourable Minister followed by a quick overview of MEDEF International's past engagements with BOI, emphasising the need for regular and enhanced cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador Marc Barety, in his brief address, summarised the measures taken by the Government of Pakistan to combat the outbreak, and possible economic fallout of the crisis. While mentioning MEDEF International's high profile visit to Pakistan in April 2019, the Ambassador emphasized the need for follow up of such visits to accrue maximum benefits.

Ambassador of Pakistan to France in Paris, Mr. Moin Ul Haque informed the participants about the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it had adversely affected Pakistan's GDP, trade and foreign reserves. He also briefly highlighted the economic package being offered by the Government of Pakistan to mitigate the sufferings of the people. Moreover, the Ambassador expressed his gratitude to the G-20 countries, including France, for their offer of assistance to Pakistan in these difficult times. Finally, the Ambassador emphasized upon the need for global solidarity in the wake of the crisis.

Mrs Nora SUSBIELLE, Area Manager, Director General Treasury gave a detailed presentation on the support measures implemented by Pakistan at federal and provincial levels, particularly the monetary measures and refinancing schemes offered by the State Bank of Pakistan. She also briefly touched upon the temporary regulatory measures for the financial sector undertaken by the Government of Pakistan.

Chairman BoI gave a comprehensive presentation on the investment opportunities in Pakistan, subsequently handling the Question and Answer session very deftly. He highlighted the tremendous potential and scope for the economies of both countries to enhance their cooperation especially in the food processing, IT, tourism, housing and construction sectors. He stressed that business-to-business interaction and incentives to the private sector were necessary to take economic engagement to the next level. He stated further that businessmen of both countries should be motivated to establish long term business relations with each other

Chainman BOI also underscored the huge potential that existed in several sectors in the wake of the current global health emergency, especially the Information Technology sector. He invited French IT and Telecom firms to consider investing in Pakistan, assuring that BoI would ensure the provision of favourable conditions to the investors. In this regard, he also mentioned the establishment of an IT Park in Islamabad. While underlining the importance of the health sector, he dilated upon the dire need for enhancing the capacity of hospitals to enable them to provide state-of-the-art medical facilities to the public. The Chairman informed further that Pakistan offered a huge consumer market of 210 million people (the sixth largest population in the world) and that the country was now on track for sustainable growth.

During the interactive session, Chairman BOI informed that Pakistan's Investment Regime was quite liberal and de-regulated. He pointed out that 100% foreign equity was permitted in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors since the country had a market-oriented economy, with a rapidly growing private sector; furthermore, 100 % repatriation of capital, profits/ dividends was allowed. He also informed that the Law of Special Economic Zones had been finalized to meet the global challenges of competitiveness to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). He stated that the said law would allow the creation of industrial clusters with liberal incentives, infrastructure and investor facilitation services to enhance productivity and reduce the cost of doing business to encourage economic development and poverty reduction. The Chairman urged French companies to enter into Joint Ventures (JVs) with local and foreign companies to become part of the global value chain, for which BoI would act as a one window to facilitate all. While clarifying about CPEC, the Chairman dispelled the incorrect perception that this flagship project was bilateral in nature, instead encouraging French investors to explore investment possibilities especially in the Free Economic Zones to avail their benefits.

The Webinar ended with a vote of thanks from Mr. Thierry Pflimin, President Pakistan France Business Council (PFBC).