PM TRACKER
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FOUR-NATION TOUR EXCELLENT, RESULT-ORIENTED

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

May 23 - 29, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz returned home after successfully concluding his 4-nation visit to South East Asian States including Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and Singapore.

The Prime Minister declared, with a sense of achievement, that his week-long tour was an excellent and result-oriented.

His views were substantiated not only by the numbers of his entourage besides the leaders of the host countries as well.

The visible achievements of this efforts were identified as unconditional support by East Asian states to Islamabad's bid to attain the full dialogue partner status of Asean, starting discussion on Free Trade Agreement with these countries and nod by the host countries to explore options to invest in Pakistan.

Talking to the accompanying newsmen during his return journey, Prime Minister said that his visit was in pursuance of "look East Policy" of the present government and it has been a great success. He said all these countries have assured of their fullest support to Islamabad's bid for full dialogue partnership status with Asean. Pakistan has also moved forward with regard to mutual cooperation on terrorism. He said that except Brunei the other three countries have agreed to enter into comprehensive free trade agreement with Pakistan.

"It is a great success," such an economic cooperation would increase the volume of trade to at least US$ 3 billion with these countries. The premier said the follow up actions are important to ensure that Pakistan could draw maximum economic benefit out of these understandings.

The "look East" policy envisages deepening relations in multiple fields and institutional linkage with members of the Asean individually and collectively. The support Pakistan won for its full dialogue membership of Asean during the prime minister's visit is a breakthrough towards that objective.

Mr Aziz also emphasized the need to increase bilateral trade through free trade agreements and inviting entrepreneurs to look at investment opportunities in Pakistan. A free trade agreement should be in place with Malaysia by the end of the year and the prospects of larger inflow on investment from there are bright. Pakistan and Brunei Darussalam agreed to set up a joint investment company to promote bilateral economic cooperation.

The Prime Minister's opening of Thai-Pakistani Chamber of Commerce is significant, as both sides agreed to negotiate a free trade agreement. Impressed by Thailand's "one village one product" project Mr Aziz suggested introducing it in Pakistan to benefit rural economy. In Singapore, it was decided to hold the next round of talks on free trade agreement in June, to open new trade and investment opportunities.

The South East Asian economies are growing at a fast pace and offer immense possibilities of increasing economic and trade cooperation. Pakistan's trade volume with these countries is expected to increase as free trade agreements are finalized. The potential investors' interest in our economy was pronounced, indicating fresh investment from these countries. What's needed now is effective and timely follow-up action.

After a successful round of talks with his Thai counterpart Thaksin Shinawatra and having achieved a breakthrough, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declared that the 21st century would be the century of Asia.

Responding to the welcome address of TPCC founding President Chaudhry Sabahat Ilahi while performing the inaugural ceremony of Thai-Pak Chamber of Commerce here, he said Pakistan is located at the crossroad of East Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. It was time that countries situated in this region reaped the benefits by making joint efforts to boost their economies.

He said Pakistan's economic policy was based on three major pillars including deregulation, privatization and liberalization. "As a result of our economic policies coupled with bold initiatives, Pakistan's Gross Domestic Product has increased manifolds and we are expecting this to touch the 7.5 percent mark this year," he added.

Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan's policy to encourage foreign investment has been both bold and transparent. "There is no distinction between foreign and local investors and it has been our endeavor to provide a level playing field to the investors. They can invest in Pakistan and take home full profit," he emphasized.

Speaking at a banquet in his honour in Singapore, Prime Minister called for promoting cooperation between South Asian and Asean countries directly as well as from the Saarc platform for mutual benefit. Both Pakistan and Singapore believe that cooperation between various regions within Asia was of great value to the whole continent. The banquet was hosted by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Istana, the Government House, in honour of his Pakistani counterpart.

 

 

Prime Minister Aziz said Pakistan's Look East vision was aimed at exchanging partnership with the Asean countries. "Our two countries share the vision of Asia as the continent destined for rapid economic growth, seeking social justice, excellence in education and advancement in technology," he said, adding that Pakistan has already signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia with the Asean to build close political and economic ties and develop full institutional links with the countries of the region.

He said Pakistan was amongst the fast growing economies in the region as there was consistency of policies, political stability and a forward looking government in place. "We are keen to forge mutually beneficial economic, political, social and cultural linkages with countries of the region and beyond," he added.

The Prime Minister of Singapore said his country looked forward to speedy progress on the FTA with Pakistan. Loong termed security another important area for cooperation and pointed that extremist terrorism was a grave threat to the world today. He said terrorists were operating a worldwide network and targeting countries standing in their way. "We are in the global fight against extremist terror together," he added.

Singapore and Pakistan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on combating terrorism and other transnational crimes. The agreement "covers capacity building and exchange of information in the areas of terrorism and other transnational crimes," Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. They also agreed to accelerate talks on Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

On Friday, the Prime Minister addressed the delegates from SAARC stock exchanges in Islamabad besides meeting the Chief Executives of Nortel, William Bill Owens and Chairman Warid Telecom Mubarak. He attended a PML (Q) party meeting called by the party chief Ch. Shujaat Hussain to sort out internal differences.

While chairing the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and its counterpart regulatory bodies in the Saarc region, the Prime Minister urged the capital market regulatory bodies as well as stock exchanges in the South Asian region to establish greater level of cooperation and coordination.

The MoU, which was signed at the Prime Minister's House, establishes a voluntary and cooperative body called the South Asian Securities Regulators Forum for increasing mutual cooperation and exchange of information among the members countries. Representatives of the capital market regulatory bodies of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mauritius and Nepal were also present at the occasion. The regulators held a meeting earlier during the day to discuss and finalize the MoU.

The Prime Minister was highly appreciative of this measure to formalize the intentions of mutual cooperation and coordination amongst the financial sector regulators in the region. He also appreciated the measures taken by the South Asian Federation of Exchanges (SAFE) to achieve the broader objectives of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Talking to Chief of the Nortel an investor in Telecom Sector, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said his government was trying to attract investments, increase growth, create employment, improve standards of living of people and distribute the benefits of economy to the common man. The Prime Minister said the telecom sector is the fastest growing sector in Pakistan and all indications are that more investments would be coming to Pakistan and the sector will continue to make progress towards rapidly growing economy.

William Bill Owens CEO of NORTEL said the economic policies being followed by the present government and President Pervez Musharraf are admirable and observed that the perceptions about Pakistan are changing. He apprised the Prime Minister that his company is involved in Research and Development in the whole range of information technology and plans to open a software house in Pakistan.

In his meeting with Chairman Warid Telecom, Prime Minister congratulated Nayan Mabarak Al-Nahayan, on launching Al-Warid mobile service in Pakistan and expressed the hope that he will make more investments in other sectors and get benefit from the rapidly growing economy of Pakistan.

After attending the PML (Q) Central Executive Committee meeting, Prime Minister said Pakistan Muslim League (PML) was fully united under the leadership of its President Chaudhry Shujat Hussain. Chaired by Ch. Shujaat Hussain, the meeting was attended by the senior party leadership including federal ministers, senior vice presidents and Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim. He ruled out any change in the party leadership or the government. He said the party has decided to hold the committee meeting every month. "The party has a vigour and strength "Insha Allah, we will take the party forward under the leadership of Ch. Shujaat," he added.