BANGKOK: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he strongly believed that promotion of bilateral regional trade was an effective way to promote sustainable economic growth.
He said that Pakistan was pursuing a policy of enhanced regional cooperation through various trade agreements. Addressing a luncheon meeting of Thai and Pakistani businessmen, he said that the top priority of his government was to create a framework that would foster rapid economic development.
He said that Pakistan is an emerging economy and a gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East. The premier said that the regional countries could help each other by reaching markets that are not easily accessible.
He mentioned the country’s free trade agreements with China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, adding that the government was looking to Pakistan’s entry into the GSP plus Scheme of the European Union. This would allow the Pakistan products to enter the European market duty-free.
Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan also provided transit facilities to goods for markets of Afghanistan. Additionally, he said Pakistan wanted to initiate free trade agreement negotiations with Thailand and discussions were progressing for this.
He said that Pakistan had devised investment-friendly policies in order to reduce cost and enhance the ease of doing business. Some examples of these were creation of various export processing zones, industrial clusters and special economic zones.
He added that Pakistan was keen on exploring the opportunities that will open up after the ASEAN Economic Committee in 2015. The prime minister said that the recent establishment of the Joint Trade Committee and the Joint Business Council between Pakistan and Thailand were positive steps to open avenues of bilateral cooperation.
He praised Thailand’s economic pace, noting the growing Thai private sector was a huge asset. He said that foreign companies operating in Pakistan could have 100 % equity and there was no restriction on remittance of companies operating in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister was in the region after attending the commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka last week. Pakistan has recently increased focus on regional trading partners in an effort pick up trade.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2013.