TORONTO – Canada Pakistan Business Council celebrated its achievements at a grand dinner and awards night in Richmond Hill with keynote speaker Allan O’Dette delivering a powerful message calling for the community’s role in building the country on a voluntary basis.

He underscored the need for engaging the next generation in tackling the real issues lest that powerful resource be wasted. In the context of utilizing available resources, Allan regretted that newcomers and immigrants to Ontario were not being embraced. With 120,000 job vacancies lying unfilled in the province, he emphasized utilizing the skills of newcomers to meet the demand for skilled manpower. 

Allan, who in his role as the CEO and President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) presides over an assembly of 60,000 business enterprises, also expressed concern over the province’s relatively insignificant share in the global marketplace, which he stressed could be enhanced by reaching out to markets, such as in Pakistan. In this regard, he expressed his gratitude to Samir Dossal, the CPBC President, for engaging in efforts to build connections between the Pakistani and Canadian business communities.

Allan also apprised the Gala audience, comprising renowned businessmen and entrepreneurs, of his vision for the province’s development and growth. He shared the salient points of a 5-year strategy built with collective wisdom of 300 CEOs, Academics, NGOs, Trade Promotion organizations such as CPBC, and endorsed by all the three political parties.

This strategy centers around fostering a culture of innovation and smart risk taking; workplace training for newcomers; tackling the fiscal challenge by cutting non-productive expenditures and investing in businesses to grow; and cashing in on opportunities for expanding businesses by networking with the chambers of commerce of ethnic communities, such as CPBC’s representation of the Pakistani diaspora.

In this regard, the OCC President also cited the successful outcome of one of the measures of the Ontario Government’s Going Global-Trade Strategy and how an investment of C$3.3 million resulted in a growth of business to the tune of C$ 75 million.

As is customary, the CPBC recognized a number of outstanding individuals and honoured them with awards for the year 2014. The recipients of this year’s awards included Mr. Feroz Ali Jessani: Businessperson of the Year; Feizhen Lu: Professional of the Year (Female); Badar Shamim: Professional of the Year (Male); Dr. Colin Saldanha: Humanitarian of the Year; Mr. Nafees Zakaria, Consul General of Pakistan: Special Recognition Award and Mr. Zeib Jeeva: Life-Time Achievement Award of the Year.

Earlier, the outgoing Pakistani Consul General Mr. Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, extended his heartiest congratulations to Mr. Dossal and the Office Bearers of CPBC on the successful completion of 31 years of this prime trade body’s existence. Speaking at the well attended dinner, he said that he would be relinquishing the charge of the Consul General’s Office next week and that in his one-and-a-half year stay, it had remained his endeavour to work with CPBC towards attaining common objectives as he always believed that, while individuals come and go, institutions are here to stay.

Mr. Zakaria observed: “For promotion of business, the private sector trade bodies like CPBC are the prime movers. Hence, they need to lead.” He stressed the need to strengthen institutions to enable them to deliver on a sustainable basis and to grow continuously.

“Luckily, in Samir I found a dynamic, energetic and intelligent partner at the helm of CPBC. Fortunate for both the Consulate General and CPBC that my colleague Mr. Asghar Ali Golo, present here, who remained part of the process of development of relationship, is succeeding me.

“In partnership, we organized and also participated in many business networking and business promotion events. And together, we made a difference, proving CPBC’s slogan right. Samir, you have surely taken CPBC to the next level but you have many more new heights to touch and many hurdles to overcome to ensure that the bilateral trade grows to its true potential. Together, we succeeded in getting the two countries on each other’s radars. Both Pakistan and Canada and most importantly their people stand to benefit.

“The strengths of both the countries complement each other. Together we have also been able to identify and reach out to the resources that could be utilized to attain our goals. One of the Institutional mechanisms under consideration is to have exchange of market information and business advisory service between CPBC and its counterpart in Pakistan PCBC,” he said.

Mr. Zakaria informed the distinguished audience about upcoming business opportunities. This year, he said, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry would put up the 3rd Pakistan Trade EXPO at the Toronto International Centre on 25-28 September, to be organized by Universal Promotions, a Canadian company run by Amir Shamsi, a Canadian of Pakistani origin. In partnership, the Consulate General and CPBC will be the facilitators of the Trade EXPO. Following this, Pakistan’s biggest business show, called EXPO Pakistan, is to be held on 23-26 October this year at Karachi EXPO Centre. Details have already been sent to CPBC, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade & Employment. Yet another International Exhibition & Conference, Food, Agri & Livestock Asia 2015, will be held on 12-14 May 2015 at the Karachi EXPO Centre. Prospective participants will soon be approached with the details and an attractive package relating to hospitality.

Lastly, the Consulate General and CPBC will look into the possibility of holding briefings on upcoming events for prospective exhibitors, participants, partners and sponsors.

Earlier, President of the CPBC Samir Dossal welcomed the guests and highlighted the progress made by his organization in recent years. He said its goal is simple: “Take trade between Canada and Pakistan to the next level.”

He pointed out that the current Canada-Pakistan bilateral trade is about $650 million – far below its potential. “To enhance it substantially, the CPBC initiated the “Focus on Pakistan” seminar last year in partnership with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Government of Ontario.” This very successful seminar, he added, has been the springboard for so much of the progress we have made in the last 18 months and the impetus behind so many of our other workshops and events.

“Thankfully, the federal government has been with us all the way. The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, has recently expressed his belief that Canadian companies can engage effectively with Pakistan on its road to economic stability. In fact, he has noted to us that the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service already actively promotes the interests of Canadian exporters and investors in Pakistan.”

Samir further noted that the CPBC attended the “Vision 2025” conference in Islamabad. Hosted by the Ministry of Planning and Development, the event was aimed at developing, by consensus, a roadmap for sustainable economic growth. Representing the CPBC, he engaged with Pakistani leaders and provided input from an international perspective.

Other successes include a Pakistani chemical company landing a multi-million deal to export products to Canada, and a five million dollar deal between a Toronto-based compressed natural gas company and CNG dealers in Pakistan.

In reviewing the various successes and achievements, Samir emphasized that “the one name that comes foremost to mind is that of Nafees Zakaria. Mr. Zakaria has been very effective in promoting the trade potential that exists between Canada and Pakistan. He was assigned his position as Consul-General here in Toronto around the same time that I took on the CPBC’s presidency, and it has been a true pleasure to work with him and see his dedication firsthand.

“In the meantime, we are looking forward to working more closely with Consul-General designate Asghar Ali Golo who has consistently impressed us with his knowledge and clarity of vision.

Samir went on to say: “At this time I would like to congratulate Premier Kathleen Wynne on her resounding victory here in Ontario.” He added: “As part of our cooperation of agreement we feel confident that we will be able to move positively in engaging the Premier of Ontario and the Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif in a dialogue.

He further noted that the CPBC had offered to support the FPCCI and the Pakistan Consulate for their third Pakistan Expo in September in Toronto. “All of this will be coordinated by our dear friend and supporter, Mr. S.M. Muneer, who has recently taken over as the CEO of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.”