July 23 - 29, 20

Addressing the Pakistan-Japan Business Roundtable held at Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad

Last week, president Asif Ali Zardari stressed the need for intensifying Pakistan- Japan cooperation in business, trade and industry for which there immense potential to benefit the two countries. He said that Japan had the unique opportunity to benefit from Pakistan's many advantages including its large labor force available at cheap rates, vast reservoir of natural resources as well as its strategic location.

The Japanese delegation at the Round Table comprised officials from Japanese Assocation of Commerce and Industry, Japan External Trade organization and country heads of different Japanese companays working in Pakistan headed by Ambassador of Japan in Pakistan , while leading members of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry headed by Commerce Minster represented the Pakistani side.

Eloberating his point of view, President Zardari said that Japanese manufacturers coud take advantage of Pakistan low cost of production, abundant raw material and cheap labour while Pakistan coud serve as a hub of Japanes production houses. .He said that the year 2012 is a special year for Pakistan- Japan relations as this is the year of celebeations of the 60thanniversary of diplomatic relations and also a year of reflection on what more needs to be done to take relations of the two countries to new heights. He said that the current bilateral trade between the two countries was far below the potential. "The keys to enhancing it lies with our Japanese friends, "he added.

Continuing the President said that located at the crossroad of Central and South Asia, Pakistan offers a huge market for its products and services." Our Japanese friends have a unique opportunity to benefit from these advantages using their expertise, technology and investment," he said. adding that Pakistan has been successful in the US and European Markets and "we have established a firm base for our products but we need more investment to increase and improve the level of our production with the use of latest technology.

The president noted that Japanese manufacturer were producing goods for export purposes in Japan at a high cost ad suggested that they can take advantage of low cost production in Pakistan which , by virtue of its unique geographical location can serve as hub for Japanese production houses. our location is such that we can serve a market of over three billion people in our neighborhood, "the President emphasized adding that Pakistan investment policies have been consistent and investor friendly. He also explained in detail the various incentives available to investors including freedom to invest without any restrictions, complete ownership of the businesses, equal treatment to local and foreign investors, free repatriation of profits and capitals and generous tax and custom incentives for bringing raw material, plant and machinery into Pakistan.

By any standard, President Zardari presented the country's case in a most effective and convincing manner and members of the Japanese delegation looked impressed as was apparent from their probing questions after the presentation and meeting with the President. meeting..

While addressing the participants of the meeting, Senior Commerce Minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, pointed out that the existing trade volume between Pakistan and Japan was only $2billion which was far below the potential .He said that it is high time to utilise existing trade potential .Currently there is no such agreement like Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between Japan and Pakistan and we hope that this Pakistan - Japan Business Meeting would be a major step towards the implementations of such arrangements. They expressed interest in exporting items to India via Pakistan but requested the government of Pakistan's assistance in reducing non tariff barriers on Indian side. The Japanese ambassador told the participants that they are arranging various investment seminars to attract Japanese investment to Pakistan but the energy crisis and the law and order situation are two major hurdles in the way. The Japanese delegation offered that official development Assistance may be utilized in improving the infrastructure specially the Railway sector.

The meeting also discussed the need to utilise the potential of export value added textile products to Japan and import of textile machinery from Japan. While arguing the existing disadvantageous position of Pakistan textile exports to Japan due to non-availability of any bilateral trade arrangements, Pakistani side proposed that a concessionary package may be given by Japan to Pakistani exports.