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Pakistan to initiate FTA talks with Malaysia

Daily Times, Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistan to initiate FTA talks with Malaysia

* Malaysian PM to arrive next week

By Waqar Ahmad

8 February 2005

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will try to convince Malaysia to enter a free trade agreement (FTA) when Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawai visits Islamabad next week.

The Malaysian prime minister is to visit Pakistan from February 15 to 17 to discuss bilateral relations, the regional situation, and international issues like Iraq, the Middle East and Afghanistan, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the Pakistan Muslim League secretary general, told journalists on Sunday.

Diplomatic sources told Daily Times that Badawai would hold talks with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on February 17 and witness the signing of agreements to enhance economic and commercial relations between the two countries. “Pakistan is eager to sign a free trade agreement with Malaysia. There is already a lot of trade between the two countries. Shaukat Aziz will take up this matter with his Malaysian counterpart,” the sources said. Pakistan imports large quantities of palm oil from Malaysia.

Aziz is also to brief Badawai about economic reforms in Pakistan to get Malaysian businessmen to invest in Pakistan. “Pakistan is keen to attract more Malaysian investment. A lot of private companies from Malaysia are already investing in Pakistan, particularly in the housing sector,” the sources said.

The Malaysian premier will also visit Taxila on February 17 and inspect some of Pakistan’s defence industries, the sources said. Pakistan has good defence relations with Malaysia and Pakistani naval ships often visit Malaysian ports.

Badawai will also call on President General Pervez Musharraf to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues, besides challenges faced by the Muslim world and reforms in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which Malaysia chairs. Malaysia also chairs the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) and is scheduled to assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in the coming months.

Badawi will also get an honorary doctorate from the International Islamic University (IIU) on February 17. Musharraf is likely to award the degree.

Badawi is to visit Saudi Arabia after Pakistan, the same time as Aziz. “It is not a coincidence that Shaukat Aziz will also be in Saudi Arabia. The leaders of three major Muslim countries will hold discussions on reforms in the OIC and problems facing the Ummah,” the sources said.