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Shaukat for early signing of FTA with GCC

The News - International, Pakistan

Shaukat for early signing of FTA with GCC

Says Pakistan keen to expand ties with UAE

By our correspondent

12 June 2007

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has emphasised the need to expedite the process of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), saying that the attractive demographics of Pakistan have created growing economic opportunities.

Pakistan, being situated at the confluence of three important regions of Asia, is using its unique geo-strategic location to promote economic cooperation and acting as an anchor of peace and stability in area, he said, talking to Foreign Minister of UAE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who called on him here Monday.

The prime minister said Pakistan values its relations with UAE and is keen to further expand cooperation in all fields, especially in the economic, commercial, investment, manpower, energy and defense sectors.

He appreciated the continued interest shown by UAE investors in Pakistan and said the Gwader port provides another opportunity to the UAE investors. "Volume of trade between the two countries is encouraging but we need to expand it further.”

The prime minister appreciated the tremendous wisdom and intellect of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and said his vision contributed to the development of the UAE as well as to building close ties between Pakistan and the UAE. With India, Shaukat said, "we are committed to the process of composite dialogue for the resolution of all outstanding disputes.”

He said early resolution of the Kashmir issue in line with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir will ensure sustainable peace in the region and help South Asia leverage its true potential. He said the peace process is moving forward and some progress has been made on the CBMs.

Talking of the country’s defence policy, he said Pakistan is a peaceful country and has no aggressive designs against any country. "Our defence policy is based on the philosophy of having minimum credible deterrence to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to maintain balance of power in the region," he added.

He said stability in Afghanistan is of vital interest to Pakistan and his country wants to see peace and stability there. "The two countries have a common cause to fight extremism," he added.

He said Pakistan has increased security on the Pak-Afghanistan border, which is porous, to keep a check on the illegal cross-border movement. Talking about the Middle East, the prime minister said Pakistan is deeply concerned over the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and "we feel the international community especially Muslim world need to make focused efforts for an early resolution of festering disputes in the Middle East".

About Iran, he said Pakistan is expanding bilateral trade and finalizing plans to buy electricity and gas from Iran. On the Iranian nuclear issue, Shaukat said Pakistan believes that it should be resolved using diplomatic channels. He said Pakistan is against nuclear proliferation, but it accepts Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the IAEA safeguards.

He said the hardworking and law-abiding Pakistani community has been making valuable contributions to the economic development of the UAE. "The government is focusing on imparting skills training to the people and a sufficient base of trained and educated manpower has been developed who can meet the specific manpower demands of UAE," he added.

Talking of economic growth, the prime minister said Pakistan of today and tomorrow is different from Pakistan of yesterday. “Pakistan has come out of the low growth, low investment syndrome and today it is among one of the faster growing economies of Asia.”

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the people and government of the UAE consider Pakistan their second home and want to see development and prosperity in Pakistan. "We consider well being of Pakistan as part of our own well being," he said.

He said the UAE holds the leadership of Pakistan in high esteem. He appreciated that relations between the two countries are growing rapidly. The UAE foreign minister appreciated the high growth and economic development taking place in Pakistan and expressed the desire to increase economic cooperation with Pakistan.

He said the government and private sector of UAE would continue to invest in Pakistan and benefit from Pakistan growing economic potential. He said the world recognizes the positive economic climate in Pakistan which has created investment opportunities for local and foreign investors. The meeting was attended, among others, by Minister for Foreign Affairs Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub and senior officials.