Business Recorder, Pakistan
Pakistan now ready to engage with EU on GSP plus, FTA: Zardari
10 May 2012
By Naveed Butt
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan is now ready to engage with the European Union (EU) on Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus and a Free Trade Agreement.
The president said this while addressing a gathering of EU diplomats at “50th Anniversary of Pak-EU Relations” at Presidency on Wednesday. He said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its excellent relations with the European Union which were “based on shared democratic values, principles of mutual respect, trust and cooperation.”
The President also recounted various other important measures which were aimed at enhancing trade activities. He said that Pakistan accords high priority to regional trade and cooperation. The year–2012–has been designated as the Year of Regional Trade and Economic Connectivity, he said. The President said that significant progress has been made on trade and economic cooperation with India.
He said that Pak-EU 5-year Engagement Plan and the upcoming Strategic Dialogue were the important landmarks in Pak-EU partnership which he said was moving steadily forward along an upward trajectory since 2008.
The President said that European Union was a key partner in peace and development of Pakistan. He said that it was an important ally in the campaign against terrorism, the biggest trading partner, and a major source of direct investment. The EU, the President said, has supported democracy and helped Pakistan in difficult times. We greatly value and thank the European Union and its member states for their support and assistance to Pakistan, the President said.
The President said that Pakistan believes in a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan which is in our best interest; therefore we are ready to facilitate political reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan was actively engaged with Afghanistan in developing joint cooperative projects. He said that Pak-Afghan Transit Trade Agreement would give impetus to regional development and stability.
He said that Pakistan-EU relations in the past 50 years augur well for the future cooperation. He said that the two sides should redouble their efforts to build on this progress for their mutual benefit.
The President said that many of the domestic challenges can be won by creating new economic opportunities. He said that EU can help Pakistan in overcoming its economic difficulties through better market access. He said that we were grateful to the EU for extending trade concession package in the aftermath of the floods expressing the hope that it would become operational soon.
“We have made great strides towards restoration of parliamentary democracy, Devolution of powers and free and fair elections under the landmark recent Constitutional amendments,” he said.
He said that Pakistan has embarked on a major economic reform program aiming at fiscal stabilisation, mobilising domestic resources to achieve 15 percent tax-to-GDP ratio over the medium term, phasing out subsidies and restructuring the power sector and other public sector enterprises.
The President on this occasion also appreciated the contributions made by EU Ambassador in Pakistan Lars-Gunner Wigemark and Pak Ambassador in Brussels, the current Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani for their efforts to further strengthen the equation.
The President said that Pakistan was working with the EU to build a mutually beneficial strategic partnership.
He said that during the last 50 years the EU has passed through momentous changes and has emerged bigger and stronger. Despite economic difficulties, it has stayed the course and emerged as an important global player, the President continued.
He said that Pakistan too has faced many challenges and braved many storms in the course of its history. We are passing through a crucial phase now, he said. The President said that Pakistan was again on the frontline in the campaign against terrorism. This struggle, he said, was exacting massive human and economic costs.
The President said that besides the great toll of the ongoing war against terrorism, the economic difficulties have been further compounded by back-to-back natural calamities, rising international oil prices, the energy shortage and the climate changes. But, he continued, positive developments were also taking place simultaneously.
He said that Pakistan has undergone a silent revolution which has revived the spirit of Pakistan. A democratic and progressive Pakistan has been emerging in line with the vision of the founding father, Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the President said.
On this occasion, EU Ambassador and head of delegation to Pakistan, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, said that the EU Foreign Affairs Council gave its approval to the plan and both sides are now ready to start working on the implementation of the Engagement Plan.
He said that with the joint endorsement of the EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, we have agreed common framework to develop and upgrade our relations across a broad rang of issues of common concern from regional security, including counter-terrorism, trafficking in drugs and organised crime to trade and economic cooperation, including agriculture, energy and science and technology.
He said that the EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue will provide political guidance to the bilateral relationship.
He said that European Union would give 350 million Euro to Pakistan for development assistance. He said that European Union would also give 370 million euro for humanitarian assistance in next four year. He said that in the past the EU has given 750 million euro to Pakistan.
He said that the EU fully supports the democratic system in the Pakistan.