Financial Express (India)
May 24, 2006
Pakistan begins talks with China for free trade accord
MAY 23: Pakistan is in separate bilateral talks with China and Malaysia to ease trade restrictions between the nations and is close to signing an accord with Singapore, commerce minister Humayun Akhtar said.
The South Asian nation expects to conclude talks with Singapore this year and is seeking to start trade talks with Indonesia, with which it already has a comprehensive economic partnership. Pakistan also wants to begin trade discussions with Thailand, Akhtar said on Tuesday in a public lecture in Singapore.
Pakistan wants to boost trade to revive its $103 billion economy, damaged by drought from 2000 to 2002 and a war in neighboring Afghanistan in 2001. Easing barriers to trade with China may help Pakistan tap a market of about 1.3 billion people. “We already have an ‘Early Harvest’ in place where Chinese machinery, a lot of fruits and vegetables can enter Pakistan without duty,” Akthar said in an interview after the lecture.
“Our purpose is trying to penetrate the rapidly growing Chinese market for our goods and to benefit from the Chinese service providers and investors.’’ China plans to boost domestic consumption by spending on pensions, education and health care in an effort to encourage demand for imports, vice finance minister Li Yong said on May 4.
Pakistan is scheduled for a round of talks with Singapore on a free-trade agreement by July, the city’s ministry of trade and industry said in a May 5 statement.
Pakistan Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz on May 5 said the country expects to sign a free-trade agreement with Malaysia by the end of this year, seeking closer business ties in areas such as aviation, banking and communications.
The two nations are seeking to increase commerce between them, with companies such as Telekom Malaysia Bhd. looking at Pakistan for investment opportunities.
South Asia is moving to boost regional trade by emulating the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, and the European Union. Trade among Asean nations accounts for 60% of their trade and intra-EU trade accounts for two- thirds of the trade of the 25 EU members. Trade among South Asian countries is barely 5% of the region’s total.