PAK-TURKISH TRADE

 

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZIV,
Islamabad

Aug 25 - 31 , 2003

Pakistan and Turkey have finalized a roadmap to enhance bilateral trade to $1 billion 2003-04, besides sharing each other's experience in major areas to strengthen economic ties. This would mean an increase of over 500 per cent trade volume between the two countries during the last decade averaged between 150 to 200 million.

This was announced by Commerce Minister, Humayun Akhtar and visiting Turkish State Minister for Foreign Trade Kursad Tuzmen after a sideline meeting of ECO conference here. Turkish Ambassador in Pakistan H. Kemal Gul and Director General Turkish Foreign Trade were also present on the occasion.

Talking to newsmen, both Commerce Ministers termed the meeting very positive. They said they were optimistic that Pakistan and Turkey were heading in the right direction, which would help establish long-term economic cooperation between Ankara and Islamabad. They said they were satisfied with the pace of progress to push forward a plan of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) which would subsequently translate in Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Humayun said that Pakistan and Turkey were engaged in finding ways and means to increase bilateral trade and meeting was a major step in this direction. He added that the two countries have agreed to form a technical committee of experts on various important sectors to recommend areas of mutual interest.

Kursad Tuzmen said he was not satisfied with the present volume of trade between Ankara and Islamabad. He said trade of around $150 million to $200 million was very low and his country was expecting a big jump in current fiscal as a result of on-going high level deliberations to promote economic activity between the two countries. He added that his country was willing to explore new areas to boost trade with Pakistan.

He identified many areas, which, in his opinion, have promising potential to achieve the objective of proceeding ahead on the economic front. He added that several areas have been identified for mutual cooperation, such as food processing, construction, transport, infrastructure, mining, energy and textile.

During the meeting, it was agreed that Turkey would provide technical expertise to Pakistan to set up special industrial zones. Pakistan would also follow Turkey in expanding its network of SMEs to increase its industrial production.

The two sides also agreed to set up a Pak-Turkish Investment Company to finance trade and investment activities between the two side. The Pakistan-Oman Investment Company would be taken as a model for establishing Pak-Turk Investment Company. Turkey would help Pakistan to set up modern warehouses network to facilitate trade activities Turkey intended to import rice from Pakistan. Humayun assured his Turkish counterpart that Pakistan would meet all specifications to export rice to Turkey.

The visit to Pakistan by Mr. Abdullah Gul, Turkish Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister provided an opportunity to the newly elected governments of both the countries to reiterate their close relations and to share each other's view on a series of developments that have shaken the world. Surprisingly, both the states pursued similar policies in most of these international happenings, which were of considerable importance to their countries. The war in neighbouring Afghanistan was a source of extreme concern to Pakistan just as Iraq was for Turkey because of its geographical proximity. The American-led war on terrorism brought both the states together, with several incidents of bomb blasts and other terrorist activities with in the countries testing their involvement. Other issues, which directly concern Pakistan and Turkey, are the Kashmir dispute and the Cyprus question. Pakistan has always firmly backed Turkey's position on the rights of the Turkish Cypriots while Turkey has supported us on the Kashmir issue.

However, Pak-Turkey relations also go much beyond common security concerns as both countries are members of several economic and political organizations that bring regional Muslim states together such as ECO, OIC, D-8 states etc. Earlier they were allied in the anti-Soviet Union Central Treaty Organization (Cento) fabricated by the US during the cold war days. The treaty subsequently came apart when the Islamic revolution radically charged the face of Iran breaking the link. Cento's socio-economic and political adjunct, RCD too was replaced by the ECO, which included more regional Islamic states.

But while both states maintain close links in various fields, trade and commerce have lagged behind. A large number of businessmen who accompanied the Turkish Vice Minister indicated the importance the visitors attached to economic relations. The talks between the two sides also chalked out ways of increasing economic cooperation specially trade. The massive reconstruction work that will be undertaken in Iraq was another area that expected to provide an opportunity for joint ventures to Pakistani and Turkish investors and technical assistance in the area of tourism will also be warmly welcomed in Pakistan as it is in dire need to jump start its tourism industry. In this context, the resolve of the two government to increase trade volume by over 500 per cent is indeed heartening.