10 November 2006
Pakistan to sign FTA with GCC soon: Khan
ABU DHABI --- Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Hamayun Akhtar Khan yesterday said that his country will soon sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the GCC bloc in coming few weeks, which will cover goods and services, and would give a big push to attract much needed foreign investment.
"We attach great expectations from the FTA...to bridge the existing trade imbalances, help divert investment inflows into Pakistan’s vibrant economy growing at 7 per cent and more trade exchanges", said the commerce minister, while speaking at a press conference, on the sidelines of the sixth meeting of Business Councils Forums, an annual feature which this year was jointly organised by Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and Irish Business Council. He said that the bilateral relations between the two countries have strengthened tremendously diversified in the areas of trade and investment during past two years.
The Minister said that the Pakistan-UAE Joint Economic Ministerial Commission (JEMC) meeting is scheduled for December 4-6, in Islamabad. It is part of on-going high-level contact between the leaderships of both countries. The JMEC is a forum where two countries discusses ways and means to foster political, as well trade, economic and cultural relations. The Minister said that Pakistan attaches great importance with the forthcoming meeting that will go a long way in further expanding the existing warm relations between the two countries. Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Foreign Minister will lead a ministerial delegation at the meeting. A large business delegation will also accompany him to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan, he said.
About the UAE’s investments into Pakistan, Hamayun Akhtar Khan said that the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)Loading... will set-up a $4-5 billion mega oil refinery in Balochistan province with a capacity of 3,00,000 barrels per day. Pakistan cabinet gave approval to this project.
Dubai ’s Emaar, Nakheel, Limitless and other companies have already announced mega real estate developments projects exceeding $40 billion. Country’s cabinet has already given go ahead to these mega projects to be completed in next 5-7 years.
He lauded the role of the UAE, its public and private sector companies for making 3.5 billion US dollar investment in Pakistan, during last year, becoming largest foreign investor replacing traditional investors US and EU. Etisalat already runs Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation (PTCL) in a $2.6 billion privatisation deal, largest in his country, concluded yet. Abu Dhabi Group of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan has interests in telecommunications, real estate, banking, finance and other sectors. The Group is involved in the construction of a $200 million Shaikh Zayed Complex, a 90-storey commercial and residential plaza, in the heart of Lahore. Abu Dhabi Group has also got the permission to create an integrated community out side Lahore, spread on 4500 acres.
"But, Pakistan wants more investment volumes from the UAE, as there is tremendous scope in privatisation of 150-state owned banking, industrial, petroleum, tourism and other enterprises", he said. Hamayun Akhtar Khan said that the UAE and other GCC countries are looking at avenues for making their investments and Pakistan is facilitating them in providing business opportunities for high profit returns on investments, as 160 million market is growing at 7 per cent annually.
To a question about bilateral trade between the two countries, he said Pakistan exported goods valuing $1.4 billion, while its imports from the UAE were little more than $1.6 billion during the fiscal 2005-06.
By Haseeb Haider