Pakistan and Turkey on Tuesday agreed to finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after their leaders announced that the two countries are embarking on fresh trade liberalisation initiatives.
Addressing a joint press conference at the PM House, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu said they have agreed to give a central thrust to bilateral trade and investment cooperation.
“We are embarking on new trade liberalisation initiatives,” PM Nawaz said as his Turkish counterpart agreed that both the countries have great potential in trade.
At the same time, the two leaders reaffirmed their resolve to fight extremism and terrorism in all forms and called for criminalisation of all acts of Islamophobia.
In his opening remarks, the Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu said Pakistan and Turkey will finalise the FTA in a bid to enhance trade and economic activities. The two countries have agreed to work towards the FTA to enhance bilateral trade to $3 billion in two years and then to further boost it to $5-10 billion in the next few years
He laid emphasis on more interaction, cooperation and a better atmosphere and called for establishing better transportation links between the two countries.
The Turkish PM also spoke out in favour of greater frequency of flights between the two countries as well as more cooperation in railways, maritime and energy sector to promote trade.
Davutoglu also announced $20 million additional assistance for return and rehabilitation of temporary displaced persons to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and the flood affected people.
He lauded Pakistan’s efforts to establish peace and stability in Afghanistan ‘as peace and stability in Afghanistan is peace and stability in Turkey and Pakistan’.
The PM Nawaz said Pakistan-Turkey cooperation on security, defence and counter-terrorism cooperation remains robust. ‘We have vowed to continue to extend support to each other in all areas and in keeping with their rich historical and cultural ties,” he said.
Earlier, both the prime ministers witnessed the signing ceremony of ten Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) between Pakistan and Turkey, held one-on-one meeting and led their delegations at the 4th meeting of Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC).
The PM Nawaz said the MoUs and agreements signed between the two countries would further enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse fields – including economic, social sectors, energy and trade.
The Turkish PM said the two countries have so far inked over 50 agreements and MoUs following the four HLSCC meetings. The PM Nawaz said he apprised Prime Minister Davutoglu of Pakistan’s endeavours for peace, stability and development in South Asia – as part of country’s vision of a ‘peaceful neighbourhood’.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu appreciated Pakistan’s initiatives for good relations with India and said stability in the sub-continent was essential for Asia. “Turkey will always contribute to all these peace oriented initiatives,” he said.
Attack on Prophet of Islam (pbuh)
Nawaz said both the leaders met in the backdrop of the Paris attack and its aftermath.
“I shared my deep anguish and unreserved condemnation of any attempts to vilify Islam and justify sacrilegious acts towards our Holy Prophet (pbuh) in the name of freedom of expression.”
While condemning terrorism in all forms, Nawaz said Pakistan and Turkey have reaffirmed their resolve to work together to oppose any form of Islamophobia.
“It is high time for all humanity to stand shoulder to shoulder against terrorism and against any type of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobic tendencies,” the Turkish PM said.
The next meeting of the HLSCC shall be held in Ankara, in 2016. The dates shall be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.
The Turkish PM cancelled his plan to visit Lahore on Wednesday following a suicide bombing there and flew back on Tuesday night.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2015.