Daily Times | 29 November 2006
Pakistan wants to initiate talks on FTA with EU: Shaukat Aziz
* UK trade minister praises Pakistan for passing Women’s Protection Bill
* Says the legislation will go a long way in providing justice and security to women
ISLAMABAD: Underlining the importance of long standing diplomatic, political and economic linkages between Pakistan and the UK, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said Pakistan desires to further strengthen the economic and trade relationship between the two countries through greater interaction between the private and public sectors of the two countries.
The prime minister was talking to Ian McCartney, UK Minister for Trade, who called on him on Tuesday along with a 10-member delegation comprising representatives of the London Stock Exchange, financial institutions and senior government officials. Expansion of economic relations between Pakistan and the UK, reform agenda of the government and the issue of better market access for Pakistani products in the markets of the European Union came under discussion.
The prime minister said Pakistan is an emerging market with a vast potential for growth, rising consumer spending and robust industrial development. The recent listing of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) at the London Stock Exchange and the forthcoming listing of the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) is a clear evidence of international acceptance of stability in Pakistan’s industrial and financial sectors.
He said as a result of the far-reaching reforms introduced by the government in every facet of life, Pakistan has been transformed into a country having high growth. The reforms introduced for de-regulation of the economy, transparent privatization, creation of a business-friendly environment, rationalization of taxes and tariffs and transparency in government transactions has restored confidence of the investors and Pakistan had received record foreign direct investment the previous year.
The prime minister said Pakistan has made significant progress on the issue of Intellectual Property Rights. A dedicated organization has been set up to deal with the issue in a focused manner and we are dealing with violations in a tough manner.
Mr Aziz said Pakistan is moving fast on the reform path to prepare itself to face the challenges posed by globalization. He said the government is working on increasing absorptive capacity and the training of the civil servants is one of the steps in that direction.
The prime minister said one of the basic paradigm shifts in the country is a clear distinction in the roles of ministries and regulators. While policy formulation is the responsibility of the ministries, regulators have been provided independence to deal with the implementation part of it. He said Pakistan desires to initiate talks on Free Trade Agreement ( FTA) with the European Union and said Pakistan being an open economy is in a position to enter into such agreements and implement them effectively. The prime minister asked the UK to extend their support to Pakistan in this regard.
Mr McCartney said the banks and financial institutions of the UK find the investment climate in Pakistan conducive and a number of them are planning to expand their operations in Pakistan. He said private sector companies are keen to invest in Pakistan in health care, financial and oil and gas sectors through joint ventures with Pakistani companies and on public-private partnership basis.
He praised Pakistan for passing the Women Protection Bill and said the legislation will go a long way in providing justice and security to women. He appreciated the role played by the Pakistani community in the development of UK. The British MPs of Pakistani origin are doing their job actively and enthusiastically, he added.
Sir Thomas Harris, Vice-Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, said British financial institutions are watching with great appreciation the economic transformation of Pakistan. He said the expansion in their operations in Pakistan, by a number of foreign banks is an expression of their confidence in Pakistan’s economic and banking sectors. The meeting was attended, among others, by Minister for Commerce Humayun Akhtar Khan, High Commissioner of the UK to Pakistan Sir Mark Lyall Grant and senior officials.