- Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shaking hands with his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra before their talks in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP
The Express Tribune | August 21st, 2013.
Pakistan, Thailand eye free trade agreement
Pakistan and Thailand on Tuesday expressed the resolve to build a strong economic partnership, double their trade volume to $2 billion in the next five years and eventually enter into a free trade agreement (FTA).
Appearing at a joint news conference after their formal talks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawatra, pledged to collaborate in the field of trade, culture, infrastructure development, science and technology, defence, education and tourism.
The Pakistan leader said the two sides held ‘comprehensive discussions’ on a wide range of issues and noted the convergence of views on key bilateral and international issues.
Regional and international issues also came up for discussion.
Shinawatra extended her country’s support to Pakistan in becoming a full dialogue partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – a gesture appreciated by her counterpart.
Nawaz said building robust economic and trade relations were a priority with the government. “Both sides have agreed to work towards a free trade agreement to form the centerpiece of our economic partnership,’ she added. Both sides have agreed to establish a joint trade committee and a joint business council at a private level to promote business-to-business contacts between them.
“We are happy to note that private business sectors on both sides have also met today,” the premier said and also mentioned that the inaugural session of the joint trade committee was being held tomorrow to identify areas of future collaboration.
He expressed the hope that these desired steps would expand bilateral trade and investments and facilitate business partnerships. “We have invited Thai private businesses to invest in Pakistan in various sectors, including infrastructure development, energy, autoparts manufacturing, food processing, packaging, gems and jewelry, tourism and hospitality,” he added.
Premier Nawaz said greater connectivity between Pakistan and Thailand was also very important to facilitate trade and investment and said “to this end we believe that Pakistan and Thailand may utilise each other’s geo-strategic location.”
He said people-to-people contacts were one of the most important aspects of their relations. The number of Pakistanis visiting Thailand is steadily increasing, he said and hoped that “the Thai Buddhist community would visit the land of ancient civilisation – Gandhara, known as a bedrock of their faith and spiritualism.”
“We have agreed on the need to enhance and deepen cooperation in the regional and multilateral frameworks,” the prime minister said. “We desire to comprehensively upgrade our relationship with Thailand in all areas of cooperation,” he said and termed it a critical component of ‘Vision East Asia’ policy that complements Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy.
Prime Minister Shinawatra also mentioned the importance of enhancing people-to-people contacts and agreed on need to further enhance bilateral and regional cooperation through various multilateral fora, like Asian Cooperation Dialogue and for enhanced South Asia and South East Asia interaction.
She expressed the belief that international cooperation will help address the challenges being confronted by extremism and terrorism and also sought support of Pakistan at the Organisation of Islamic Conference.