The Hindu | 30 June 2009
Pakistan, Nepal mull over free-trade pact
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Nepal are considering a free-trade agreement, said the Pakistan Foreign Ministry on Monday.
It came up for discussion during Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir’s three-day visit to Nepal that included meetings with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, as well as bilateral consultations with his counterpart, Gyan Chandra Acharya.
The last time the two Foreign Secretaries met bilaterally was in 2004. This is the first visit by a top Pakistani official to Nepal after the monarchy was overthrown and a new government formed in that country.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Mr. Bashir and Mr. Acharya reviewed the “entire gamut of Pakistan-Nepal relations”.
“They decided to comprehensively upgrade the bilateral relationship and agreed on the essential elements of a shared strategy to take Pakistan-Nepal relations to new heights. Both the Foreign Secretaries attached particular importance to enhancing trade and economic co-operation including through a Pakistan-Nepal Free Trade Agreement,” said the Ministry in a statement on the visit.
They also decided to deepen bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, energy, environment, science & technology, IT, culture, education, and people-to-people contacts. The two officials also discussed “matter relating to connectivity and transport”, the release added. The two countries have discussed a free-trade agreement in the past, and according to diplomatic sources, Pakistan had even drawn up a draft agreement some years ago.
At his meeting with Nepal’s Prime Minister, Mr. Bashir handed over a letter from Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani reaffirming his government’s “commitment to further strengthen the long-standing ties of friendship and cooperation with Nepal”, and inviting Mr. Nepal to visit Pakistan.
The Foreign Ministry said Mr. Nepal also underscored his country’s desire “to further deepen bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic, agriculture, energy, environment, and cultural and tourism fields”. The two sides also underlined their commitment to continue to work closely in SAARC with a view to promoting common interests and the imperative of regional cooperation, the Foreign Ministry said.