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Pakistan, Bangladesh sign 4 memoranda

Daily Times, Pakistan

Pakistan, Bangladesh sign 4 memoranda

* Free trade agreement to be finalised by September 30
* Aziz calls Bangladeshi PM’s visit a ‘turning point’ in bilateral relations

By Shahzad Raza

14 February 2006

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Bangladesh signed four memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on trade, standardisation and quality control, agriculture and tourism on Monday.

The two countries also agreed to finalise a free trade agreement (FTA) by September 30.

During bilateral talks, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Bangladeshi Premier Khaleda Zia agreed for the need to enhance the scope of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

An MoU between the Pakistani and Bangladeshi export promotion bureaus was signed to analyse business and trade conditions between the two countries. The two sides agreed to facilitate investment through identification of sectors of mutual interest, and exchange information and publications regarding development of trade relations.

The two countries also agreed to establish a regular reciprocal exchange of economic and commercial information, market research reports and trade directories.

The MoU called for regular working meetings to evaluate the implementation of its provisions. The two sides also agreed to cooperate in training programmes regarding trade and investment.

Another MoU was signed between the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority and the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution on standardisation and quality assurance. Under the MoU, the two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in standardisation and quality assurance and conformance testing and certification.

The third MoU, signed between the two countries’ agricultural research councils, vowed to enhance cooperation in agricultural science and technology and agricultural production, including livestock and fisheries, through joint activities and programmes.

The MoU envisaged the establishment of a joint agricultural working group to provide guidance.

Another MoU on tourism was signed, under which the two sides agreed to conduct familiarisation tours to each other’s countries for travel writers, tourism professionals, academicians and print and electronic media personnel.

Zia’s visit is the first formal trip to Pakistan by any Bangladeshi head of state in 12 years. Aziz called her visit “a turning point” in relations between the two countries.

He said that the agreement to finalise the FTA before September 30 was a significant development. The FTA will grant both countries duty-free access to each other’s markets for certain products.

Aziz also announced a meeting of SAARC finance ministers in March to boost trade and economic activities among member countries. “The prime minister (Aziz) and I held fruitful talks. All issues of bilateral, regional and international importance were discussed,” the visiting prime minister told journalists after the talks. She invited Aziz to visit Bangladesh as well.

She said that her goal was to make SAARC more effective in the region.

Asked if she supported the discussion of bilateral issues at the SAARC forum, Zia said that improvement in SAARC was a continuous process. She supported “extending the scope of SAARC”, saying that things were moving “in the right direction”.

She said that Pakistan and Bangladesh enjoyed excellent relations and expected improvement in mutual trade and investment.

Aziz said that the resolution of disputes was necessary for a prosperous South Asia. He urged SAARC members to help create a conducive environment for peace and co-existence.

The prime minister said that he had discussed defence and security cooperation with his Bangladeshi counterpart in detail. The proposed reforms in the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the United Nations also came under discussion, he said.

Aziz also announced an increase in the number of scholarships to Bangladeshi students to study in Pakistan.