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
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
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,"
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 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.