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Sep 17, 2013| Courtesy by : nation.com.pk
ANKARA – As the focus of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit would be exchanging views on the status of bilateral cooperation, particularly trade and investment, he would avail this opportunity for Pakistan and Turkey to consult each other and coordinate efforts relating to events in the broader region, in particular, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt. Pakistan has always lauded Turkey for its constructive role in efforts to bring peace to the war-devastated Afghanistan. Turkey has so far hosted seven meetings of Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey Trilateral Summits.
It is clear that both the countries share identical views about the need for peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is important that the two countries underline an Afghan-led process of reconciliation and express their readiness to facilitate and promote a positive outcome without taking any sides. The visit would lend a unique opportunity to both the prime ministers to share views on the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan and adopt a common approach to play a significant role in the conflict.
The prime minister, during his interaction with chief executive officers of major Turkish companies, would persuade them to take full advantage of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Act of 2012 that provides generous incentives to foreign investors. A special cell has already been set up in the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad to facilitate and oversee Turkish investments and projects in Pakistan. This would serve to remove all bottlenecks and prevent unnecessary delays in executing future projects. There is a need to chart a new path and break new grounds, especially in the economic and trade fields. The prime minister’s meetings with the Turkish leadership and his interaction with the Turkish businessmen would, therefore, be an excellent opportunity to reinforce Pakistan’s strong desire for forging a comprehensive strategic partnership with Turkey, aimed at bringing a qualitative and quantitative change in mutual economic and trade relations.
It is unfortunate that the excellent state of Pak-Turkey political relations has yet to be fully reflected in economic and commercial relations. Bilateral trade remains modest despite considerable potential of the two economies. Once touching an all-time high of US$ 1 billion in 2011, bilateral trade has witnessed a declining trend in the following years. The major reason for this decline is the imposition of additional duties by Turkey on certain textile and chemical products to protect its local industry. These additional measures had a negative effect on Pakistan’s export of these items to Turkey.
The prime minister’s address to the Business Forum in Istanbul and his meetings with the CEOs of key Turkish companies would thus be an ideal opportunity to convey the government’s commitment and necessary assurances for facilitating Turkish investors in Pakistan. It may be mentioned that the annual credit line of US$300 million allocated by Turkish Exim Bank for Pakistan provides a useful funding option for financing Turkish projects in Pakistan. It is hoped an MoU will be signed with the Turkish Exim Bank during the visit for utilisation of this credit line. To promote investments and trade, the two countries are emphasising the need to develop close linkages in the financial and banking sectors. The State Bank of Pakistan could facilitate this cooperation by establishing contacts with leading Turkish state and private banks to encourage them for opening branches in Pakistan. Pakistan could also benefit from Turkey’s experience in security and counterterrorism areas. The two countries signed agreements in 2004 and 2006 for general cooperation and sharing of experiences and training in these areas. There is also an ongoing engagement between the Punjab government and Turkey for modernisation of Punjab police. This cooperation could be strengthened further for concrete cooperation in specific areas of counterterrorism, organised crime, intelligence and use of modern technology for policing. The province of Punjab could serve as a pilot project for emulating in other provinces of Pakistan.
Cooperation in the education sector is vital for investing in Pakistan future generations. Islamabad should seek more Turkish scholarships for placement of students in the leading English-medium Turkish universities in science and technology disciplines. The two countries could also cooperate in the area of technical and vocational training and skills development. Pakistan could benefit from Turkish experience and expertise to develop training programmes for the trainers and set up vocational and technical training schools. An agreement between Turkish Agency for Vocational Education and its Pakistani counterparts would provide an effective platform.
The Turkish construction industry has achieved international recognition for the quality and speed of its work. In terms of business volume, it is globally rated second only to China. Several Turkish companies including STFA, LIMAK and EKO have carried out a number of infrastructure projects in Pakistan including roads, bridges, housing complexes, hospitals and schools. More companies could be attracted for building motorways, railroad, airports, shopping malls and hotels by offering special incentives, sovereign guarantees and assurances for security of their capital. The Turkish companies are generally interested in doing business in Pakistan through joint ventures and on BOT basis.
Turkish side is also likely to raise the Karakey rental power project issue and there is a strong possibility some agreement would be arrived at. Early resolution of this issue would send a positive message to the Turkish government as well as investors.