Daily Star, Dhaka, February 14, 2006
Bilateral FTA to be finalised by Sept
Decide Dhaka, Islamabad; two PMs sign 4 MoUs
Pakistan and Bangladesh have agreed to finalise bilateral free trade area (FTA) agreement within the shortest possible time, by September at the latest, to create scope for easy access of Bangladeshi products to Pakistani market as a measure for reducing the existing trade gap.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz disclosed the decision at a joint press conference immediately after official talks and the signing of MoUs at the Pakistan Prime Minister’s House yesterday afternoon.
Both the prime ministers made press statements and answered questions from reporters on the outcome of the talks.
Terming the bilateral meeting fruitful and effective, The Pak premier said they agreed to finalise the FTA soon, by the 30th of September, to increase trade relations between the two countries.
Replying to a question about duty-free access of Bangladeshi products to their market, Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan wants to take more goods from Bangladesh and the FTA will facilitate the process.
It was discussed at the bilateral talks that a Pakistani delegation led by its commerce minister will visit Bangladesh soon to make a successful FTA deal.
As Bangladesh side raised the matter of duty-free access of its goods, the host side welcomes it, saying that now a number of items, including tea and jute, are being imported from Bangladesh.
About Safta ratification, Pakistan informed that they would soon ratify the Safta in their next cabinet meeting, likely this month.
Shaukat Aziz termed this bilateral visit of Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda to Pakistan historic as it took place after long 12 years. This visit is "really a turning point to take the existing friendly relations to a new height" in all sides of cooperation for wellbeing of the two peoples, he said.
During the official talks, Shaukat was quoted as saying: "Relation between Pakistan and Bangladesh is a relationship of sharing and caring."
Pakistan has agreed to increase the number of student scholarship for Bangladesh from 75 to 100, the press conference was apprised.
Prime Minister Khaleda termed the talks between her and her Pak counterpart as well as official talks extremely fruitful.
"We have made an assessment of the existing multifaceted cooperation between our two brotherly countries. We have also discussed ways and means of widening such cooperation, including expansion of bilateral trade," she said in her press statement.
"We have noted with satisfaction the successful holding of annual foreign secretary-level consultations and the eighth meeting of the Joint Economic Commission in recent months," she said, adding that these contacts have added fresh momentum to the process of cooperation between the two countries.
Khaleda expressed her sincere hope that their discussion would pave the way for a more meaningful and cooperative bilateral relationship.
Replying to a question, Khaleda said one of the targets of Saarc is to ensure peace, stability in this region and improve the lot of the people of this region. And the dynamics of Saarc that got new momentum from the 13the summit will increase day by day in implementing the forum’s agenda.
She said even some differences between the member countries of the Saarc will be overcome for the betterment of all.
Both Khaleda and Shaukat strongly stated that they would work together in various fields of bilateral, regional and international affairs for the welfare of people, peace and stability.
Before official talks, Khaleda and Shaukat had about a 45-minute tete-a-tete.
4 MoUs SIGNED
Bangladesh and Pakistan yesterday signed four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on cooperation in agriculture, tourism, export promotion, and product standardisation and quality assurance.
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council under the Ministry of Food and Livestock and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council under the Ministry of Agriculture entered into the MoU in the farm sector.
Agriculture Minister MK Anwar inked the deal on Bangladesh side while Pakistani Food and Livestock Minister Sikandar Hayat Khan on the host side.
The MoU on tourism was signed by Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan and Pakistan Tourism Minister Syed GG Jamal. The third MoU on export promotion, was signed by Foreign Minister Morshed Khan and Pak Commerce Minister Humayun Akhter Khan
The fourth one between Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) in the field of standardisation and quality assurance was signed by Foreign Minister Morshed Khan and Pak Science and IT Minister Nouraiz Shakoor.
KHALEDA ON TERRORISM
Speaking at a banquet hosted in her honour by Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the PM’s House yesterday evening, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has expressed her government’s firm resolve to tackle terrorism with a strong hand, saying that there should not be any complacency or double standard in demolishing terrors.
"Indeed, terror has no place in Islam and no cause can justify acts of terror. We are determined to combat ’Islamophobia’ that seeks to demonise our great religion," she said in her speech.
The prime minister said Bangladesh condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. "Terrorism is the resort of cowards who strike from behind and target mostly innocent people, including women and children."
"Terrorists have no respect for human life or dignity and we must show no complacency in demolishing them. We also believe that there should not be any double standard in the fight against international terrorism," she told her elite audience in Pakistan—where the government has acted ruthlessly in dealing with militants.
Earlier, the prime minister visited an earthquake relief camp, about 15-km from the city centre in the Pakistani capital, where 10,784 of the quake-affected people have been sheltered.
The chairman of the H-11 Relief Camp, Kamran Lashari, briefed the prime minister about overall facilities and situation of the camp which is jointly run by the government, NGOs, Turkey, Kuwait and Red Crescent.