PAK-TURKISH ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Number of areas for joint ventures and investment take attention
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
June 30 - July 6, 2003
The three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed between Pakistan and Turkey during the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last week can be seen as opening of new chapter of purposeful cooperation between the two brotherly countries having a great deal in common. An idea of shape of things to emerge can be seen from the decision that the two Prime Ministers will meet annually in Islamabad and Turkey, alternately, to review the progress on various projects to be undertaken as a follow up of the decisions taken in the current meeting.
The very fact that Erdogan's delegation visiting Pakistan comprised five of his Cabinet Ministers and 107 members of business and investors community shows the importance of this visit, the purpose of which was officially described at the press conference, as building stronger bilateral relations commensurate with the deep political ties based on history, culture and faith.
Underlining the significance of their resolve to boost bilateral ties in economic, trade and other fields, the two Prime Ministers viewed future of promising opportunities. As to the prospect of greater cooperation, hope inspiring should be the composition of the Turkish Prime Minister's encourage. It is reassuring that Prime Minister Jamali, in his introductory remarks, pointed out that besides discussing the MoUs on trade and economic ties, there was commonalty of views on Iraq, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Kashmir and Palestine, attributing these to the "need of the time in 21st century that we Muslims should work hand-in-hand on these and other issues". They also exchanged views on enhancing bilateral ties in commerce, finance, communication, science and technology, besides defence and education.
The Turkish Prime Minister pointed to the large size of his delegation, describing it as proof enough of Turkey attaching importance to Pakistan, as also evidenced by the recent visits of Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers to Pakistan. Observing that Pakistan was important for peace and security of the region, he lauded this country's role in fighting terrorism and marching towards democracy.
Of his meeting with Prime Minister Jamali, Prime Minister Erdogan said that they reviewed the present economic, trade cultural and social relations in detail, expressing their determination to give them a fillip. Noting that relationship at the political level was just perfect, he pointed to the urgency building strong economic ties, especially in areas of construction, highways and dams.
During this visit Pakistan and Turkey have identified a number of areas for joint ventures and investment, besides increasing bilateral trade at a Pak-Turkish business council meeting. Some of the areas for joint ventures were textile, construction, services sector, food processing shipping and tourism.
Addressing the council, Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan said that Pakistan's textile is an important sector and Pakistani industrialists should take advantage of Turkish expertise for development of their industries. He said that Pakistan is interested both in exchange of technology and manpower.
Pakistan is ready to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Turkey to facilitate traders of the two countries, he added.
The minister told the gathering that Pakistan is following a policy of signing free trade agreement (FTA) or preferential trade agreement (PTA) to enhance trade with international business partners in the changing scenario, in particular with reference to WTO regime.
He said that Pakistani investors are free to take away foreign exchange from Pakistan for joint ventures and the government hopes that the facility would be availed to enhance investment and trade activities abroad which can pay dividend to Islamabad in the long run.
The minister spelled out steps taken by the Government of Pakistan to liberalise trade and investment, besides introducing free market mechanism. He said that the Government of Pakistan, is pulling itself out of business or investment activities and is assuming the role of a regulator and facilitator.
Turkish Minister of State, Incharge of Foreign Trade, Kursat Tuzmeen, agree with Humayun that trade volume between Islamabad and Ankara was much less and needed to be increased to substantial level. He said that Turkey wanted to share its advantages with Pakistan to provide it access to European market. He said that Turkey was actively following the policy of liberalisation to give boost to its investment and trade. The Turkish Minister said that his country has established 20 free zones where industrialists were offered all kinds of tax exemptions.
Erdogan's visit is clearly a continuation of previous initiatives. Earlier, in 2001, the then Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's visit to Pakistan, had boosted the urge for solidarity with Pakistan. His talks with President Pervez Musharraf, confirmed the identity of thoughts and purpose for a common cause. In the perspective of regional development initiatives, the Turkish President had pragmatically elicited the cooperation of Turkish businessmen for strengthening purposeful trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan.