Trade ties with India 'central piece' of economic agenda: Pak

"We want primary focus of our relationship (with India) to shift to economic aspect. I think small steps are being taken and we are hoping that a momentum would develop so that it benefits all our neighbors," visiting Pakistan Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said.

Shaikh, who is here to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, also noted that the Pakistan Commerce Minister is in India for talks with his Indian counterpart.

"Our Commerce Minister (Makhdoom Amin Fahim) is in India today and he has instructions to be flexible and receptive to the proposals to further trade between us," Shaikh said addressing a meeting on 'Challenges Facing Pakistan’s Economy' at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank.

"No country or no region of the world has rarely shown true development if the regional ties are not on a solid footing. That is the lesson from our experience that we want to adopt. We would move towards regional integration. We will allow greater participation."
Shaikh said improving trade and economic relationship with India is going to be the center piece of Pakistan’s economic policies now.

"The final thing which we have been working on which would be the central piece of Pakistan’s economic agenda going forward, would be to develop stronger economic links with our traditional partners and in particular with our neighbors," he said.

The minister said: "We have signed the transit trade agreement with Afghanistan. We are looking at a preferential trade agreement, its expansion with China."

He also dealt in detail the challenges facing Pakistan's economy, but argued that his country does not need to depend on perpetual government aid and wants other countries to provide its private sector and the corporate sector equal opportunities and market access.

"We need to create more space for the private sector. More important thing is to secure access to our people in the market that are. We are not looking for assistance, or we are not looking for perpetual kind of government to government help. What we are looking for a chance for our government to compete," he said.

In Washington, Shaikh met officials of the IMF and World Bank to discuss with them the current economic situation.

He told IMF that Pakistan’s USD 11.3 billion programme with it would conclude on September 30.

However, cooperation between the IMF and Pakistan will continue, Shaikh noted.
Officials said the World Bank agreed to look for providing International Bank for Reconstruction and Development financing that will help Pakistan in completion of Tarbela IV project that will add 1300 MW power generation capacity.

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