PM Imran calls for EU-like trade bloc in South Asia

Holds wide-ranging talks with Sri Lankan leaders in Colombo

By: News Desk      Published: 02:38 PM, 24 Feb, 2021
PM Imran calls for EU-like trade bloc in South Asia

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday inviting the Sri Lankan businessmen to invest in Pakistan said trade connectivity among the countries of the Asian sub-continent was vital for poverty alleviation.

Delivering a speech at Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference held in Colombo which he jointly chaired with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, Imran Khan proposed establishing trade links, as existed among the European countries, which he said could prove beneficial for the prosperity of Asian sub-continent.

Imran Khan and Mahinda Rajapaksa led their business delegations at the conference held in a bid to explore avenues of collaboration in diverse fields.

The Prime Minister, who is in Colombo on a two-day official visit, said political stability in the region by maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries ensured business-friendly environment that resulted in overall development of the people.

He said Pakistan and Sri Lanka could explore the idea of generating wealth through joint business activities and diverting the wealth to alleviate poverty.

Imran Khan offered the Sri Lankan businessmen to explore the immense opportunities offered by the government of Pakistan in the form of ease-of-doing business. He said his government would welcome and facilitate investment from the island nation.

The Prime Minister mentioned that as Pakistan and Sri Lanka both suffered the brunt of terrorism in the past, their journey together towards development could make a difference.

He expressed intent for Pakistan to learn from Sri Lanka’s advanced tourism industry and mentioned that he made the tourism minister part of his delegation to explore the area.

Imran Khan said Pakistan had a lot of undiscovered sites of religious tourism including the Gandhara civilization and trails of Buddhism, adding that a recently discovered 40-feet-long Sleeping Buddha could be of special interest for Sri Lankan tourists.

He said joining the Belt and Road Initiative could open up new avenues for Sri Lanka with an opportunity to connect from Gwadar up to Central Asian states.

He expressed with satisfaction the professional emergence of Sri Lankan cricket team that had won the World Cup at Pakistan’s home ground Lahore.

In an effort to maintain good relations with neighbouring states, Imran Khan recalled his offer to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir dispute.

To encourage trade ties with neighbours, he said, “maintaining amiable relations and living like civilized nations must be a priority”.

Imran Khan emphasized that with 1.3 billion people, the South Asian region needed to resolve its mutual conflicts through dialogue for a sustainable prosperity.

He said Pakistan could also play a part in reducing tensions between the United States and China, for the ultimate benefit of people across the continents.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said with Free Trade Agreement in place, Pakistan and Sri Lanka could exploit the potential of enhanced trade.

In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, he said Pakistan was ensuring ease-of-doing business particularly in housing and real estate sector to promote growth. “We want to make Pakistan an economic hub with focus on peace, development and activity,” he said, adding that China Pakistan Economic Corridor would lead towards prosperity for the entire region.

He invited the Sri Lankan businessmen to explore and benefit from the business opportunities offered by the government of Pakistan.

Commerce Minister Abdul Razzak Dawood said the existing trade volume between Pakistan and Sri Lanka did not commensurate their friendly relations and thus needed a thrust in their bilateral economic strategies.

He expressed confidence that close collaboration between the businessmen and investors of Pakistan and Sri Lanka could contribute to the stability of economic indicators.

The Sri Lankan State Minister for Commerce said Pakistan and Sri Lanka could cooperate to fill the resource gap keeping in view their friendly relations.

He proposed joint collaboration between industries of the two countries, besides engagement at people-to-people level in the field of education and health.

He lauded Pakistan’s change in focus from geo-strategic level to geo-economics, adding that Sri Lanka was ready to collaborate for South-South partnership in areas including pharmaceuticals.

Meeting with Lankan president

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday held a one-on-one meeting at Presidential Secretariat in Colombo as the two leaders affirmed cooperation at multilateral fora.

During the talks held in a warm and cordial atmosphere, Prime Minister Imran Khan underlined the exceptional quality of Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations marked by trust, understanding and mutual support.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of building robust economic partnership characterized by enhanced bilateral trade, investments, and commercial cooperation.

He also laid emphasis on deeper collaboration in diverse fields —particularly agriculture, tourism, science & technology, sports, education and culture. The importance of sharing experiences in poverty alleviation was stressed.

Imran Khan underlined that Pakistan and Sri Lanka had always stood by each other and re-affirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support to Sri Lanka in future.

The close cooperation between the two sides in the multilateral fora was re-affirmed.

While noting the close traditional and cultural ties between the two countries, Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted that Pakistan had the potential of being a choice destination for religious tourism for Sri Lankan people. He particularly highlighted the rich Buddhist heritage of Pakistan.

In the regional context, Prime Minister Imran Khan shared his vision of peace, development, and connectivity.

Imran Khan also emphasized the importance of regional cooperation through the platform of SAARC and the opportunities for regional prosperity through CPEC, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Prime Minister extended a cordial invitation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to visit Pakistan at the earliest convenience.

The two leaders discussed the significance of Pak-Sri Lankan relations with a history of friendship and cooperation in diverse fields.