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Pakistan, GCC negotiating Free Trade Agreement: Dr Asim

Geo News, Pakistan

Pakistan, GCC negotiating Free Trade Agreement: Dr Asim

23 February 2012

APP/ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain on Thursday said that the Pakistan-Qatar Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) would provide an excellent opportunity to enhance economic and trade relations between the two countries.

Addressing the second session of JMC here, Dr Asin Hussain said that the present session would not only help concluding concrete proposals to augment economic relations, but would also enable both the countries in finalizing an action plan.

He said that the Pak-Qatar JMC was a useful institutional framework for an in-depth review of existing economic relations and identification of new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.

He said that due to keen interest of the leadership of both countries, the JPC session was being held soon after the visit of Prime Minister Syed Raza Gilani to Qatar.

He said Qatar was on the road to prosperity and had been able to strengthen its economy despite global economic recession.

He said that Pakistan and Qatar were blessed with deep-rooted and historical multi-dimensional relations - based on cultural affinities, shared traditions and values, geographical proximity and identity of interests.

He added both the countries had traditionally been supportive of each other at the international fora. The warm, cordial and time honoured relations that so happily exist between the governments and the people provide an excellent footing for further enhancing bilateral economic cooperation, he added.

He said Pakistan greatly valued its bond with Qatar and sincerely wished to vigorously pursue a programme to broaden and further strengthen the already fraternal relations between the two countries.

He said bilateral trade was much below the existing potential of economies and hoped that the Pak-Qatar Joint Business Council would act as a catalyst to promote interaction between the private sectors of both countries. There are promising opportunities to enhance trade and investment, he added.

Dr Asim said Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were currently negotiating Free Trade Agreement. "We would like to request the Government of Qatar for their support regarding convening of third round of Pak-GCC FTA."

He said there were ample opportunities for Qatari investors to invest with 100% equity or joint ventures in various fields of renewable energy, software technology parks, cotton, textile, oil and gas, agriculture, tourism, small and medium enterprises, chemicals and infrastructure sectors. Similarly services sector is fast growing in Pakistan as well as in Qatar, he added.

He said more than 500,000 Pakistanis were contributing in the economic development of Qatar. This calls for forging closer links between the services industries of Pakistan and Qatar in terms of exchange of technology, movement of capital and the skilled manpower, he added.

He said the Pakistani exploration and production companies in oil and gas sector desired to join hands with the Qatari companies for investment in upstream and downstream projects in Pakistan.

He said Qatar would be starting mega projects in different sectors. Pakistan has good experience in designing and construction of engineering works, he added.

He said there was considerable scope between Pakistan and Qatar for cooperation in conducting feasibility studies, engineering designs and consultancy services. Large engineering and consultancy houses in Pakistan are willing to offer their services in this context, he added.

He said despite international recession, Pakistan hoped to achieve a 4%growth in GDP. "Our exports crossed $25 billion mark with 28% growth and we continue to be focused on growth of international trade."

Dr Asim said economic fundamentals during the first six months of this financial year also seemed to be on the right track. Export growth was 9%,remittances remain strong and tax revenues increased by 27%.

"We still face the challenges of fiscal stabilization, restructuring our energy sector, strengthening the social safety nets and securing high and sustained growth."

He assured that Pakistan would make every effort to strengthen brotherly relations between the two countries and expressed the hope that the two delegations would put in their best to achieve tangible results in this JMC.