Honorable delegates and Distinguished Guests
Assalam–Alaikum & Good Afternoon
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to interact with such prominent business persons from Thailand and Pakistan. At the outset, I wish to commend your joint efforts to forge closer business-to-business relations between our two countries.
I arrived in this beautiful capital of the ‘Land of Smiles’ yesterday. This morning, I participated in the “Connect Asia” Summit and had the opportunity to meet the participating leaders as well as key players of the Information Technology Industry.
I look forward to my talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra later today. During the talks, we would have the opportunity to review the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations and move towards further deepening our cooperation in diverse fields.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Prime Minister Yingluck and I share the vision to build a substantive partnership between Thailand and Pakistan with trade, investment and economic cooperation as its defining elements.
Pakistan and Thailand enjoy strategic geographical locations and are endowed with rich human and material resources. Both countries are also significant economies in their respective regions.
Our complementarities are vast. Hence possibilities for mutually beneficial collaboration are immense.
In Pakistan, the top priority of my Government is to create an enabling framework for rapid economic development. In this context, our foremost emphasis is to upgrade our energy and physical infrastructure. Our government has always been rightly perceived as business-friendly. We also have a strong record of policy measures that have unleashed the potential of private sector in Pakistan.
However, we are constantly striving to further improve our business environment to encourage economic progress.
In Thailand, the pace of economic progress over the past 30 years has been very impressive. The enterprising nature of the Thai people and the ever-growing strength of Thai private sector are huge assets. I am sure that by working together, our respective business communities can develop mutually profitable joint ventures.
Our bilateral trade has steadily grown over the past few years and is now around US$ one billion per year. During my last meeting in Islamabad with Prime Minister Yingluck, we agreed to double our trade volume in the next five years.
Needless to say, the business community in both countries would have to play a proactive role in achieving this goal.
I strongly believe that promotion of bilateral and regional trade is one of the most effective ways to promote sustainable economic growth.
Pakistan is, therefore, pursuing a consistent policy of enhanced regional cooperation through various trade agreements.
Here I would like to mention that Pakistan has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. We also have Multi-lateral Preferential Trade Arrangements in the South Asian and Central Asian regions in the form of SAFTA and ECOTA.
Additionally, we have signed Preferential Trade Agreements with Iran, Mauritius and Indonesia. We are now looking forward to Pakistan’s entry into GSP Plus Scheme of the European Union, which will allow Pakistani products to enter the European market duty-free.
Pakistan also provides transit facilities to goods for markets of Afghanistan. Last but not least, Pakistan wants to initiate FTA negotiations with Thailand and discussions are already underway in this regard.
The recent establishment of Joint Trade Committee and Joint Business council (JBC) between Pakistan and Thailand are positive steps to open new avenues of bilateral cooperation. We hope this will translate into more active collaboration between the business communities of both sides.
Pakistan has devised investment-friendly policies in order to reduce the cost, and enhance the ease of doing business. Creation of various Export Processing Zones, Industrial Clusters and Special Economic Zones are examples of such policies.
Foreign companies operating in Pakistan can have 100% equity and there is no restriction on remittance of capital and profits.
Presently, more than 600 multi-national companies such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Glaxo, Nestle are operating profitably in Pakistan. We are glad that the CP-Group from Thailand has initiated its investment project in Pakistan. There are immense possibilities for Thai companies in the energy, infrastructure, food processing, gems and jewelry, hospitals and tourism sectors.
Pakistan is a land of business opportunities. Let me share with you a few interesting facts about Pakistan’s economy. With a population of 180 Million, Pakistan has the 6th largest human resource and consumer base in the world. We are the 4th largest exporter of rice and 4th largest producer of milk in the world; on the industrial side, Pakistan’s textile industry is amongst the world’s leaders. Furthermore, Pakistan is fast becoming the destination of choice for a significant number of international Information Technology companies. The availability of skilled professionals, an appropriate IT infrastructure and affordable rates result in considerable time and cost-savings for entrepreneurs.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Pakistan is an emerging regional economy and a gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East whereas Thailand is hub for the ever-growing ASEAN region. We can help each other for reaching markets that are currently not easily accessible. Pakistan is also particularly keen to explore possibilities that would emerge in the wake of the ASEAN Economic Comity in 2015.
I look forward to a mutually beneficial and productive business interaction between the business leaders of both sides and hope it will result in new opportunities for our trade and investment relations.
On my part, I can assure you that my Government will support your efforts to the fullest.