Tuesday July 18, 2006
Pakistan to sign FTAs with Singapore, China, Malaysia
ISLAMABAD, July 18 (Reuters) — Pakistan will sign free trade agreements (FTA) with Singapore, China and Malaysia by the end of 2006, the country’s commerce minister said on Tuesday.
"I expect FTAs with Singapore, Malaysia and China would be concluded by the end of this year," Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan told reporters in Islamabad.
Pakistan already has a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka and negotiations are underway with Thailand, Indonesia, Iran and Bangladesh.
Khan said his ministry is striving to maximise the level of country’s exports by taking various initiatives and improving infrastructure at trade transit points.
Pakistan announced a target on Monday of $18.6 billion exports in the fiscal year 2006-07 (July-June), 9 percent more than the target for the fiscal year just ended on June 30.
The minister said Pakistan is considering ways to increase trade with India and expressed hope that the recent bombings on the Mumbai’s train network would not affect bilateral trade ties that have budded since the two countries began a peace process over two and a half years ago.
Khan said the next Economic Coordination Council (ECC) would review which items can be imported from India.
Last week, Pakistan’s central bank said the country could save up to $900 million a year if trade with India is liberalised.
In 1996, India granted most-favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan, but Islamabad has yet to reciprocate.
Instead, it has gradually increased the number of items that can be traded with India.
India and Pakistan, the region’s largest economies, have already signed the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) protocol, along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Under the first phase of the agreement, scheduled to last until December 2007, tariffs are to be reduced in two phases to 20 percent in the case of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and 30 percent in the case of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal.