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Pakistan keen for FTA with Bangladesh: Shaukat Aziz

The New Nation, Bangladesh

Pakistan keen for FTA with Bangladesh: Shaukat Aziz

By UNB, Dhaka

4 November 2004

Pakistan is keen to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to foster bilateral trade and economic cooperation, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said here on Thursday.

The FTA, he said, would spur business and trade between the two friendly countries. Besides, Pakistan is willing to open bilateral shipping services to promote bilateral trade.

The Pak leader also stressed the need for expansion of trade in the region through SAFTA.

Talking to a group of newspaper editors, Aziz said Pakistan is also willing to help Bangladesh in vertical integration of the country’s textile sector.

He also emphasised the need for setting up a SAARC development fund for poverty alleviation programmes in South Asia.

The Pakistan Prime Minister observed that South Asia has the richest reserve of "human capital" which, he said, should be tapped for economic development of the region. "But we have to improve the Human Development Index in the region," he added.

He said Pakistan has recently said "good bye" to International Monitory Fund (IMF) - the Washington-based fiscal and monitory agency of the World Bank group - because his country has been able to turnaround its economy. Pakistan is now accessing capital market direct, he said.

In this context, he mentioned the recent public auction of two cellular licenses in his country which netted more them US$ 500 million in license fees. "There are no sweetheart deals in Pakistan anymore," he said.

Pakistan also floated Eurobond issues to raise US$ 500 million which was eventually oversubscribed, he said.

About the process of privatisation in his country, Aziz said, "It’s a very complex issue... Pakistan had to restructure the process and inject required capital and take some other steps before privatising the state-owned enterprises."

The Pakistan Prime Minister, who is also the current Chairman of SAARC, was here on a two-day official visit as part of his tour of the SAARC capitals.

Dwelling on reform measures in his country, Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan has lowered taxes and tariff regimes which in turn helped to curb leakage and raise revenue earnings.

In reply to a question, he said Pakistan’s parliament is ’supreme and sovereign’ and that the parliament has decided that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf "can hold the two offices simultaneously," adding, "Pakistan don’t need to learn any lesson on democracy from anywhere."

Replying to another question on Indian allegation about ISI agents operating from Bangladesh soil - an allegation that Bangladesh has always denied - the Pak Prime Minister expressed his ignorance on this, saying, "It might have come from the archives!"

Asked about the political situation in Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz said, "Every country’s politics is different from other... and politics goes on on its own course."

About any possible return to Pakistan of two exiled former Pak Prime Ministers - Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif - he said they might not be returning soon for "legal or other reason... But their parties are functioning in Pakistan."

Talking about SAARC, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the seven-nation forum was designed and created to share experiences, ideas and ideals to promote cooperation and development.

In this context, he referred to Bangladesh’s success in micro-banking which, he said, was replicated in Pakistan. "This was, what I would call, a ’success transfer’."

"We have to develop capacity to look forward, bring ourselves together and look out for new areas of engagement and bridge-building... And we have to move step by step," said the SAARC Chairman.

© Copyright 2003 by The New Nation