LONDON: The visiting Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim has said Pakistan is keen to develop and expand trade and commercial ties with the regional countries in view of their close proximity. Speaking at a reception hosted in his honour by the Pakistan Bankers Association on Wednesday evening, he mentioned that President Asif Ali Zardari has visited China three times in the past one year to further economic relations and invite Chinese companies to invest in Pakistan.
He spoke of vast trade potential existing between Pakistan and its neighbouring countries including those in the Central Asia. At the same time, he urged the Pakistani entrepreneurs to search for new markets to sell their produce.
Fahim said Pakistan is also eager to improve ties with India and the relations between the two countries were getting better day by day until the November 26 Mumbai incidents which brought the composite dialogue process to a grinding halt as well as the enhancement of the trade relations.
Despite this setback, the Minister was optimistic that the Indians would resume the dialogue after the Parliamentary elections in India were over in May. The Commerce Minister said in order to develop greater trade relations with India, Pakistan had removed many items from the sensitive list and 2007?2008 Trade policy had focussed much on economic ties with the eastern neighbour.
Fahim said the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was another key instrument in promoting trade among the SAARC countries while Pakistan has signed Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with several Asian countries.
He gave an overall view of the Pakistan economy and said it has registered growth while the exports have also doubled to US $ 19 billion. However, he added that Pakistan trade balance remains a cause of concern while the textile industry needs world market to export its produce.
In order to search for new markets, the Government, he said, has urged the Textile mills to go for value additions while at the same time, it has been in touch with European Union for the greater market access for Pakistani textiles and the end to protective tariff.
The Minister admitted that energy shortage is hampering industrial growth but added that the Government is seized of the matter and has initiated steps to overcome this problem.
Earlier, in his welcome address, PBA President Anwar Zaidi said the global recession has changed the world fundamentally. He spoke of a shift in the balance of power between private and public sectors as governments step in, first to bail out collapsing markets and industries, then to regulate them in the future. “This is very consequential because it will affect, price formation, risks and capital structures,” he added.
The Habib Bank officer said the financial crisis is being compared to a slow motion train crash in which a world dominated by unsound monetary policies and reckless bankers is heading inevitably towards its eventual demise, unable or unwilling to abandon the course that had led them to this point in the first place.
Zaidi said as governments get more involved in financial markets and regulations become more high profile element of the framework of capital markets, investors will need an extra skill set, that of dealing with public policy.
He pointed out that the industrialized countries find themselves in a very unfamiliar situation. The IMF predicts a 0.6% decline in the world economy this year which includes a 2.6% shrinkage of the US economy, a 3.2% shrinkage of the Euro zone economy and a 5% decline of the Japanese economy. The knock?on effects on other economies including that of Pakistan are just as dramatic and worrying.-APP