PM TRACKER
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SHAUKAT UPHOLDS POLICY OF TRADE NOT AID

 

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad
Aug 22 - 28, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz visited Japan and Hong Kong from August 8-13, covering almost the entire week to further strengthening the country's economic, commercial and political ties with its important Far Eastern partners in pursuance of look East vision policy of the present government.

Minister for Industries and Production Jehangir Khan Tareen, Minister for Tourism Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Minister for Water & Power Liaquat Ali Jatoi, Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Culture Muhammad Ali Durrani, Export Promotion Bureau Chairman, Board of Investment Chairman, besides businessmen, industrialists and officials of Prime Minister's Secretariat and Foreign Affairs Ministry accompanied the Prime Minister.

While talking to newsmen on his return Shaukat Aziz described his visit to the two countries as highly successful. "Besides meeting all the commercial objectives the visit to Japan and Hong Kong has also helped in removing the misconceptions about Islam and the country's image," he claimed.

The Prime Minister said another aim of the visit was to seek more investments in diverse fields which was also met as the private sectors both from Tokyo and Hong Kong evinced keen interest in Pakistan. He said a number of diverse areas like power generation both hydel and thermal, oil refineries, LNG terminal, real estate development, construction, IT and Science and Technology were some of the key areas in which they have showed interest.

The Prime Minister, who held a series of meetings with CEOs and presidents of leading Japanese companies and the ones in Hong Kong, said there was a great deal of acknowledgment regarding the successful outcome of the reform agenda being pursued by Pakistan.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's recent visit to Japan has been very successful from an economic standpoint. The Japanese government has pledged to revive the yen loans under the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), suspended after Pakistan's nuclear tests seven years ago. The total amount is estimated at $ 440 million.

During his stay in Tokyo, Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz had wide-ranging talks with his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on economic cooperation between the two countries. He also held extensive discussions with the heads of a number of leading Japanese corporations and invited them to invest in various sectors of the economy. The Prime Minister also sought greater market access for Pakistan's leather and textile products.

Economic cooperation between Pakistan and Japan is expected to accelerate with the resumption of official Japanese development assistance, and the role of the private sectors of the two countries is also crucial in this regard. As such the prime minister did well by pointing out to the members of the Japanese business community that big opportunities for investment and growth exist in oil refining, petrochemicals, power generation, oil and gas sector, agri business, real estate, tourism, information technology, telecommunications and auto industry.

On reaching Hong Kong from Tokyo, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had an hour long meeting with the Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and discussed measures to boost economic ties, promote investment and increase interaction between the two private sectors. The talks at the Chief Executive's office were described by the Prime Minister as cordial and highly positive. He said Hong Kong is one of the main financial and commercial centers of the region and Pakistan was seeking enhanced interaction and investment from the business community there. He said the talks mainly focused on commercial cooperation, adding there was a lot of potential to increase the bilateral trade significantly from the existing one billion dollars.

The Prime Minster briefed Tsang about the country's macro economic reforms and the achievements made in the banking, legal and trade sectors. The chief executive appreciated the measures and said Hong Kong also pursued a similar path and reached the stage where it stands at a prominent position. He also discussed different dimensions of Pak-China relations.

While, addressing a luncheon meeting hosted in his honour by General Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Prime Minster said the purpose of his visit was to seek more investment from the business community in Hong Kong. He said hotel, IT, telecom and construction sectors were the major areas where there were more chances of investment. He said the government's policy of liberalization, deregulation and privatization had played a key role in strengthening Pakistan's economy and putting it on a firm footing. There were many areas where the foreign investors could inject their money like the agro-based industry, which could benefit from the value addition.

Shaukat Aziz said the country was also following a transparent privatization programme with open bidding.

The Prime Minister during this week-long tour of these two important countries announced two main policy decisions of his government. In Tokyo, he announced that the newly constructed port Gawadar was not a military facility. In Hong Kong the Prime Minister announced that Pakistan would not trade freely with India until the Kashmir dispute was resolved. "With India, free trade and investment has to move in tandem with progress on overall relations with the two countries, and the main issue is Kashmir," Aziz said, adding: "progress on free trade and investment will be linked to progress on the issue"..

But, Aziz said, once the dispute is resolved, there is good potential for trade ties between the two courtiers. One possible move is to allow banks in each country to open branches in the other, he said. "State Bank of Pakistan is very keen and we want to do it in parallel, so the moment we get a green signal that the Reserve Bank of India is ready to trot we will," he said.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz went to some length to emphasize that the port of Gwadar has no military element to it, "Never ever was Gwadar considered for being turned into a military base," he told a questioner after his address at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. More specifically, he addressed a question that naturally gave rise to speculation that Gwadar would develop into a military base some day: the fact that China is a rising economic, industrial and military power whose rapid growth has even made the United States worried. It also has an increasingly powerful navy whose role is no longer confined to just territorial defence.

In short, Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz concluded his visit to Japan and Hong Kong with a grand success in marketing Pakistan for trade and investment. The focus of his interaction with the leaders of the two countries was to boost bilateral trade and promote investment for Pakistan's development. He has seemingly been able to convince the entrepreneurs in the two countries that Pakistan is the best place to invest in view of the tremendous incentives and facilities that it offers to the investors.

 

 

Similarly, he has brought home his government's policy of trade rather than aid in keeping with the traits of a dignified and self-respecting nation. He has had scores of encounters with businessmen, traders, entrepreneurs, mediamen and intellectuals, where he focused Pakistan's political, cultural and religious ethos, besides projecting the country's soft image, its commitment to peace and harmony and abhorrence to extremism and terrorism in all their forms and manifestations. His interaction with the political leadership of the two countries afforded him opportunity to highlight the resolve to address Kashmir issue with India, mentioning that the ongoing Pakistan's nuclear assets are defence oriented since the country has no aggressive designs against any country. "On the contrary, it's Pakistan that has remained at the receiving end right from the beginning." He also emphasized that Pakistan's control and command system is fully secure and there is no need or justification for alarm on this count. It has been established as a result of its scrupulous conduct over the decades that Pakistan firmly believes in peaceful coexistence. It wants to live in peace and detests interference in other countries' internal affairs and wants other nations to respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The success of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's visits can be judged from the fact that the leaders of both Japan and Hong Kong have praised Pakistan's economic reforms and progress as a result of the consistency in its fiscal policies. Besides, they have pledged to expand trade with Pakistan and increasing the volume of credits for the development of the country. He rightly believes that the 21st century belongs to Asia and stressed that South Asia should assert its due role at the world level in order to wrest its rightful share in the international economy.