Pakistan & Thailand agree to discuss possibility of FTA
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan & Thailand have agreed to look into the possibility of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and discuss the matter under their Joint Trade Committee. A joint statement issued at the conclusion of the visit of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the invitation of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday mentioned the economic, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries.
The two prime ministers underlined that expansion of the ties remained a high priority and noted that bilateral trade had grown and crossed the USD one billion mark in 2011.
They expressed the resolve to double it within five years and stressed the need to make it more balanced through appropriate measures to encourage more exports from Pakistan to Thailand.
This may include diversification and inclusion of other products and services such as processed food and food products, especially Halal products.
They welcomed the signing of the memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on the establishment of the Joint Trade Committee (JTC) and the Joint Business Council (JBC), and said the instruments were aimed at strengthening and expanding trade, commercial and investment ties.
The two prime ministers reiterated that a Pakistan-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would form the centre-piece of economic partnership between the two countries. In this context, they agreed to discuss on the possibility of bilateral FTA under the Joint Trade Committee.
During the two-day visit, the Thai Prime Minister also called on President Asif Ali Zardari. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also hosted a banquet in her honour and her delegation.
The talks at the PM House were held in a cordial, friendly and warm atmosphere, reflecting excellent bilateral ties that exist between the two countries.
Prime Minister Sharif termed the smooth democratic transition in Pakistan a landmark development and said it would lead to economic stability, political coherence and social transformation.
The two prime ministers discussed a vast array of issues of mutual interest at the bilateral, regional and international levels and noted significant progress made in recent years, particularly in investment, security, defence, education, cultural and consular relations.
The two leaders welcomed initiation of an investment project in Pakistan by Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group and said it would promote mutual investments. They also agreed to expedite consideration and conclusion of a draft model agreement for investment promotion and protection.
Both the prime ministers also agreed to enhance connectivity by land, sea and air in order to facilitate trade, investment and people-to-people contacts. The connectivity would be beneficial to both the countries as Thailand could be a gateway for Pakistan to South East Asia, while Pakistan could be a gateway for Thailand to Central Asia, and the Middle East and the western region of China.
Regarding cooperation in science and technology, the two prime ministers agreed to hold the second meeting of the Joint Committee established under the MoU for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, in Islamabad before the end of this year.
Both the leaders noted the importance of technical cooperation. Thailand agreed to share its experiences with Pakistan by exchanging experts and offering training in; gem stones cutting, tourism, and agriculture under the Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) framework.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction with high level exchanges between the two countries in recent years. In 2012, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn paid an official visit to Pakistan in connection with celebration for the 60th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations.
The Royal visit also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the state visit of Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit in March 1962.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Thailand as well as the President of the Thai Senate visited Pakistan in January and April, 2013, respectively. The Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan and the Minister for Planning and Development of Pakistan visited Thailand in June 2013. These visits contributed to deeper collaboration in political, parliamentary and defence fields.
Both the prime ministers agreed to deepen their historical and cultural ties and to continue cultural cooperation under the Cultural Exchange Programme signed in 2005.
Pakistan said it would work with Thailand in planning a possible Gandhara Exhibition in Bangkok. Thailand would encourage tourism to Taxila and other Buddhist sites in Pakistan.
The two prime ministers reaffirmed importance of people-to-people contacts. As Thailand is medical hub in the region, the Thai Prime Minister encouraged Pakistanis to receive medical services in Thai private hospitals.
They also expressed satisfaction with the growing number of Pakistani tourists travelling to Thailand in recent years, with a 28 percent increase in 2013. They noted that increasing number of flight frequency between the two countries would further enhance tourism.
Both the leaders recognized that mutual exchange of visits between parliamentarians, academicians, intellectuals, artists, media persons, researchers and scientists would yield notable results in upgrading people-to-people contacts.
They also agreed that Pakistan’s “Vision East Asia” and Thailand’s “Look West” policies complement each other well.
The talks also took into account their common cultural linkage through Gandhara civilization. The issuance of joint commemorative postal stamp and the replica of “Fasting Buddha” presented by the Government of Pakistan as a gift to Thailand were deeply appreciated.
Both the sides also agreed to deepen political engagement through regular exchanges at leadership level with a view to fostering continued development of a multifaceted relationship.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction with the increasing numbers of Thai students studying in Pakistan and Pakistani students studying at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and other institutions of higher learning in Thailand. They welcomed opening of the “Pakistan Corner” at ThammasatUniversity in Bangkok in June.
They also welcomed signing of Agreement on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements for Diplomatic Passports and agreed to discuss scope of expansion by including official passport holders and steps towards visa facilitation for businessmen and tourists.
They noted that both the nations stood by each other in the wake of natural disasters and extended support and solidarity when massive floods hit Pakistan and Thailand in 2010 and 2011. It was agreed to learn from each other on disaster preparedness and management and to make it a regular part of bilateral interaction.
The two leaders also encouraged both countries to support and utilise the existing regional frameworks and institutions in the areas of disaster risk reduction such as ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian Countries and Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).
The Thai side will host the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in June 2014 and invited Pakistan side to attend the Conference.
Both the leaders acknowledged the need to enhance security collaboration by encouraging more cooperation on combating terrorism, transnational crimes including drug trafficking and human smuggling through exchange of information and intelligence.
They agreed to hold the next meeting under the MoU on Combating Terrorism and Certain Other Crimes in Bangkok at both sides’ earliest convenience.
They also noted the increased interaction at the leadership level between the armed forces as part of expanding bilateral defence cooperation. They agreed to; promotion of high level exchanges between the three services; cooperation in military training and exercises and academic linkages and collaboration in defence industry.
The two sides noted that Pakistan and Thailand had convergent views on vast range of regional and international issues of common interest and had collaborated closely in relevant fora.
They affirmed their commitment to enhance and deepen cooperation at the regional and multilateral frameworks such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The Prime Minister of Pakistan thanked the Prime Minister of Thailand for Thailand’s consistent support for Pakistan’s enhanced partnership with ASEAN.
It was underscored by the Pakistan side that the full dialogue partnership would be of mutual benefit and also promotes Pakistan-ASEAN ties in all areas of cooperation.
The Thai Prime Minister expressed satisfaction for Pakistan’s understanding and support for Thailand’s position in the OIC. The Pakistan Prime Minister welcomed positive developments in the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand and expressed full support to the Government of Thailand in its endeavors to peacefully resolve the situation there.
The two leaders reaffirmed their mutual support for each other’s candidatures in the UN Human Rights Council.
The Prime Minister of Thailand extended an invitation to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to visit Thailand at a mutually convenient time.
The Prime Minister of Thailand expressed her gratitude to Prime Minister, the government and the people of Pakistan for the warm and gracious hospitality extended during the visit.