Pakistan and Singapore would go
into the second round of talks on proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by
the end of November, PAGE has learnt.
The Ministry of Commerce
officials said that Singapore was already concluding FTA with India and
had started exploratory talks with Sri Lanka. The ministry officials
said that FTA between Pakistan and Singapore had not yet made any
progress whereas the latter had concluded FTA with India and had started
exploratory talks with Sri Lanka.
The officials said that
Singapore's trade with Pakistan touched 1.02 billion US dollars last
year making it Singapore's 45th-largest trading partner. Talking about
the probable areas of cooperation between the two countries the
officials said that Pakistan was unable till yet in fully tapping the
Singapore's markets. Pakistan had a great deal of potential in areas
like infrastructure development, power, roads, telecommunications. The
areas in which Singapore has a lot to offer range from electronics,
pharmaceuticals to banking services - all these things will be of
interest to a developing country like Pakistan.
The two countries had already
signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement as they were now
negotiating the FTA to give a boost to their trade ties for enhanced
economic cooperation. Officials from Singapore and Pakistan concluded on
Aug 27 the first round of talks over a possible free trade agreement, in
Singapore. Pakistan had imported goods worth Rs16.032 billion in fiscal
2004-05 and Rs 25.109 billion during July-May period of the 2003-04
fiscal. Pakistan's exports to Singapore are negligible and the signing
and operationalization of the FTA between the two countries would help
increase exports from Pakistan to Singapore.
Imports from Singapore would be
of semi-finished goods or parts of consumers goods that would help the
local industry to assemble the goods for the local market or for export.
These items would be imported at cheaper rates. As a result of this
Pakistan would be able to compete in the local as well as international
markets and the country would be in a position to increase its exports.
Pakistan would export raw
materials and commodities to Singapore, and a new market for Pakistani
exports would be tapped. Singapore is an active member of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations and it could be helpful in
expanding Pakistan's trade with its neighboring countries.
Singapore has already proposed
to Pakistan the draft of the proposed FTA and the second round of
negotiations between the two countries. Trade experts from the two
countries are focusing on the said draft and will try to finalize the
modalities of the proposed FTA for the promotion of trade in desired
"Pakistan is still a
rather small trading partner of Singapore's. Pakistan produces cotton
textiles, sugar, rice, etc and exports some of these products to
Singapore, but it has a fairly good appetite for Singapore products and
services and so relations between Pakistan and Singapore would probably
grow over the time," officials said.
environment was very similar to that of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,
based on an Anglo-Saxon model very much like Singapore. The legacy of
English Common Law exists in all these countries, but the legal system
in these countries is a little more ponderous and slower than in
Singapore. Also, it probably lacks the required skilled manpower which
abundant in India.
Regarding the possibilities of
the problem of a lack of skilled people the officials said that it's not
entirely lacking, which did not have the same depth that India presents.
They said that there was some sort of labor in virtually every level of
skills in Pakistan.
Talking of the important
considerations for a new investor, the officials said that Pakistan was
a fairly fast-growing economy but infrastructure bottlenecks were
certainly a bit of a problem.
Political stability over the
medium and long-term was another issue that Pakistan was in a very
volatile part of the world especially on its Western frontier where
there was insurgent activity. "But it has an environment now which
is very welcoming for foreign investors and so opportunities for
businesses are growing", the officials added.