KARACHI: Pakistan can benefit a great deal from Australiaâ€™s renewed interest in the region if it could move swiftly to capitalise on emerging opportunities, as world readjusts to changing realities beyond the world financial crisis. The traffic from Australian economic ministries to Pakistan has picked up. The Government of Pakistan, however, seems to be lacking in articulating a befitting response to gestures of warmth from Canberra. Despite playing generous host to visiting guests Islamabad has not so far been able to display its readiness to improve the engagement between the two countries significantly in sectors of mutual interest. Despite the huge gap in the level of development between the two nations, there are marked similarities in basic resource environment of Australia and Pakistan. Agri-business, mining, energy and education have already been discussed as potential areas of trade and cooperation in the second meeting of Australia-Pakistan Joint Trade Committee in Islamabad in February this year. Others, such as water management, tax administration, tourism, manpower, etc., have yet to be explored. The joint committee was held in a cordial atmosphere and discussed access to the Australian market also among other issues, confirmed Tim George, High Commissioner of Australia to Dawn. The issue of improving presence of Pakistani manpower in aging Australia, however, did not make it to the discussion table. =omg= George ruled out a revision in visa policy framework for Pakistani workers hoping for a job in Australia in the near future.=xy â€œThere is a visa regime in place. The immigration framework is also available. No, we are not considering, at this point, to review it for Pakistanis wishing to work in any category in Australia or those who wish to migrate there,â€ he clarified categorically. The smallest continent is faced with the problem of aging population and manpower shortages. It is focusing to push up the productivity graph to continue on growth trajectory and sustain high living standards.=xD Some senior Australian diplomats, including Australiaâ€™s Senior Trade Commissioner to South Asia, Peter Linford, were in Karachi at the launch of a joint business forum last week. Talking to Dawn in an exclusive interaction, Australian trade experts and diplomats were cautiously optimistic about the future of the friendship. â€œThe launch of Pakistan-Australia business forum would certainly make the economic environment conducive for deeper commercial ties. Already, there are many Australian businesses active in Pakistan, and many more Pakistani companies trading with Australia. I see great potential to expand further the bilateral commercial relationship,â€ the High Commissioner remarked. â€œIt would complement established government-to-government linkages, like the Australia-Pakistan Joint Trade Committee,â€ he added. â€œA lot has been agreed upon in trade meetings between Pakistan and Australia. However, we are waiting for talks to walk,â€ Peter Linford, Australiaâ€™s Senior Trade Commissioner to South Asia, remarked. On a question regarding timing of sudden gushes of sentiments in Australia for Pakistan, the trade expert observed: â€œAny time is a good time to make correction. We, (Pakistan and Australia), for long practiced a policy of mutual commercial neglect to our peril. From a positive angle, it makes the opportunity even more exotic,â€ he said. Peter Linford admitted that the perception of Pakistan in his country is worse than the reality. â€œThe media has a role to play to improve the image of Pakistan that has huge untapped potential. We need success stories from Pakistan to let businesses to see through the smokescreen of negative imagery,â€ he commented. â€œIf one company succeeds, it encourages others to come,â€ he said about possibility of Australian private companies entering Pakistan. â€œThe challenges that Pakistan faces are grave, but economic opportunities that the country of over 160 million people offer are immense. Despite security challenges, Pakistan has assumed significance for countries and investors looking at South Asia with interest,â€ he said. He particularly remarked on the potential of Pakistan in agriculture. â€œThe country certainly has a potential to become fruit basket for the region.â€ The recession in the West is forcing Euro-centric nations to shift their gaze. The current world economic environment has compelled Australia to take deeper interest in Asian rim and beyond. There are clear indicators that Australia wants to increase trade interaction with Pakistan despite challenges the country is confronted with. Australia acknowledges the potential of mutually beneficial closer economic ties with Pakistan that could be materialised through greater interaction between people, businesses and the governments of the two friendly countries. It is high time for economic diplomats in Pakistan to put their act together and pounce on this window of opportunity.