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PM for FTA between Pakistan, US to promote economic activity

Dawn, Pakistan

PM for FTA between Pakistan, US to promote economic activity

7 June 2011

APP/ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday called for an early conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and United States to promote economic activity.

Talking to a US Congressional delegation led by Doug Lamborn at the PM House, Prime Minister Gilani said economic activity would address the issues of poverty and unemployment particularly in the under-developed and militancy-affected areas.

About the misperceptions in both countries against each other, Prime Minister Gilani said US presence in Pakistan should be seen as a source of peace and prosperity by the people of Pakistan, a PM House statement said issue here.

However, he said the US administration and particularly the US Congress needed to be sensitive about the opinion and views of the people of Pakistan in order to pave the way for a long term strategic partnership based on mutual trust, respect and interest.

He pointed out that the people of Pakistan were expecting a thorough investigation of the Raymond Davis case in the US under its laws.

The provision of civil nuclear technology, reimbursement of large amounts of with-held Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan and utilisation of the Kerry-Lugar Bill funds for signature projects have a direct bearing on the life of ordinary Pakistanis, Prime Minister Gilani said, adding that these would help build a positive image of the US in the country.

Underlining Pakistan’s strong commitment to cooperate with the US in defeating militancy, Prime Minister Gilani stressed the need for concerted efforts by both sides to bridge the trust deficit through reinforced cooperation in intelligence sharing, joint action against al Qaeda and its affiliates as well as progress on various segments of strategic dialogue in multi-faceted fields.

Prime Minister Gilani referred to President Karzai’s forthcoming visit to Pakistan during which the inaugural session of the commission on reconciliation between the two countries is scheduled along with the launching of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.

He further stated that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US being part of the core group have to have strategic coherence among them for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.

He termed Pakistan-US relationship as significant in the context of how they can shape the future of this region and called for joint endeavours to ensure maximum utilisation of the potential for economic development in Afghanistan as well as the region at large.

The members of US Congressional delegation termed Pakistan as an extremely important country in the world in the war against terrorism and for defeating violent extremism. They acknowledged the sacrifices of Pakistan’s armed and security forces as well as of the people of Pakistan for world peace in the ongoing struggle against terror.

They assured Prime Minister Gilani that despite strong sentiments in the US Congress for reducing the budget deficit and cutting down on foreign aid, the economic assistance to Pakistan would continue. They also agreed with Prime Minister Gilani that his democratic government needed the political space and undertook to contribute in that regard in the US Congress.

The US Congressmen were highly appreciative of Prime Minister Gilani’s remarks that US presence should be a source of peace and prosperity in Pakistan for addressing the negative perception about it here.

They welcomed Prime Minister Gilani’s proposal for Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and US and recognised the need that the US should help Pakistan address the root causes of extremism in the larger interest of continuing the strategic partnership.

The US Congressional delegation included Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Richard B. Nugent and W. Keating.

Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Senator Syeda Sughra Hussain Imam, Secretaries Foreign affairs, Defence and Interior, US Ambassador Cameron Munter and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.