PM sets $5b target for Pak-Turk bilateral trade to reflect historic friendship

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Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday, while assuring his government’s all-out support, urged the business community of Pakistan and Turkey to take the bilateral trade to the $5 billion mark within next three years.

“The $1.1 billion trade is nothing… Let us resolve to take the two-way trade to $5 billion… Let us do it speedily. The time and tide wait for none,” he said addressing a dinner reception hosted by President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) Riffat Hisarciklioglu in his honour.

The prime minister, along with a high-level delegation, is on his maiden visit to Turkey, since he assumed office on April 11.

A huge number of businessmen from Turkey Pakistan Business Forum, Turkish and Pakistani investors, and officials from the boards of investment of Turkey and Pakistan attended the event.

The prime minister said the government had done away with all the impediments to the business sector and urged the Turkish investors to invest their capital in multiple sectors like agriculture, IT (information technology), dairy, textile, and links and transcend political changes on either side.” Both countries had similar views on regional and international issues and collaborated closely on bilateral, regional and multilateral forums, he said. He also thanked Turkey’s leadership for its principled support on the Kashmir issue.

The prime minister said that while cultural and people-to-people relations between the two countries were on an upward trajectory, Pakistan was now focusing on increasing economic cooperation.

“The current level of bilateral trade is still not a true reflection of the excellent state of our relationship. This is also an area where immense opportunities exist for both countries. During my visit here, I am meeting leading Turkish business companies to encourage them to utilise the immense opportunities existing in Pakistan in various fields, including energy, infrastructure, e-commerce, municipal agro-based industry and IT sectors, etc.”

In response to a question about trade with India, Prime Minister Shehbaz said Pakistan and India had a “lot to gain from mutually beneficial trade”.

However, Pakistan had taken the decision to downgrade relations with India after Aug 5, 2019, when it revoked occupied Kashmir’s special autonomy, he recalled.

“We are cognisant of the economic dividends that can be accrued from a healthy trade activity with India. However, in the wake of continued brutalisation of the Kashmiri people, attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and continued denial by India of the Kashmiris’ rights, it is hard to imagine that progress can be made on the trade front.”

He further said that India would have to take the onus for normalisation of relations by revisiting its decision of Aug 2019 and creating a conducive environment for dialogue.

When the premier was questioned about Pakistan’s place in the United States’ policy on the Asia-Pacific region, he said the two countries had a

Pakistan wanted to deepen and widen its engagement with the US, he said, pointing out that the country was the biggest export market and a major source of investment and revenue.

There is a lot of potential to expand the trade, commercial and investment aspects of this relationship even further, he added. The prime minister also urged US companies to invest in Pakistan, especially in the information technology sector.

Prime Minister Shehbaz stressed that the PML-N-led coalition government did not believe in “any kind of polarisation”. The incumbent government was formed of “almost all” political forces from the provinces, except the PTI, he added.

“I believe in political accommodation and dialogue. For this reason, I have invited all political forces, including the PTI, to sit together and agree on the charter of the economy. For Pakistan to break the boom and bust cycle and gain economic stability, it is important that all political forces work out the minimum rules of the game that ensure continuity of economic policies and provide enabling environment for this purpose.

“While we are aware of the menace of political polarisation, we are working to promote political dialogue and engagement.” The PML-N government’s priority since coming into power in April has been to stabilise the economy, he said and noted that Pakistan was facing several challenges, including external fiscal pressures, inflation and rising food prices.