By ACHARA DEBOONME
PAKISTAN is looking forward to word from the Thai government on when it wants to start negotiations on a free-trade agreement, new Ambassador Sohail Khan has said.
“Both sides have agreed to continue informal negotiations on the FTA pending completion of legal formalities,” he said. “There’s need for [the] two sides to sit down and work on it.”
Like his predecessor Sohail Mahmood, Khan, who was posted to Bangkok in August, foresees huge benefits for both countries from the FTA. While Thai companies will be able to do more business with Pakistan’s 180-million population, as well as other countries in South and Central Asia, Pakistan is looking for a closer relationship with Asean.
“It’s time for Asean to get stronger and active in South Asia,” the ambassador said.
Thai-Pakistani bilateral relations are cordial and friendly, he said. And there was a great potential to make this relationship broad-based if business people were better informed of the opportunities. Promising areas for such cooperation are gems and jewellery, auto parts, fisheries, energy, and the service sector. A few Thai companies have made their presence felt in Pakistan, but “we want them to further their businesses”. At the same time, Thailand’s energy companies are also invited to explore opportunities in Pakistan, where energy shortage remains a problem.
Pakistan faces daily power blackouts of sometimes more than 18 hours across the country, as it currently faces a power shortage of almost 7,500 megawatts because it reportedly failed to build new power plants to keep up with the demand for electricity.
As Thailand is rushing to complete negotiations for an FTA with the European Union within two years, there is no sign of when formal negotiations with Pakistan will start. Bilateral trade recently reached the US$1-billion mark.
This year has witnessed a series of high-level visits. However, the real progress in bilateral economic ties was seen in August when Premier Yingluck Shinawatra, accompanied by 25 representatives from the Thai private sector with potential for business in food and agricultural products, energy/alternative energy, gems and jewellery, hospitals and medicine, tourism, auto parts, and construction visited Islamabad.
In addition, Yingluck and her Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of three documents including a visa-exemption agreement for diplomats, and memoranda of understanding on setting up a Joint Trade Committee and a Joint Business Council. Prime Minister Sharif was due to visit to Thailand from yesterday till tomorrow. He was to participate in the Connect Asia-Pacific Summit hosted by the Thai government and co-organised with the International Telecommunication Union. The leaders of the two countries are expected to meet in the bilateral segment of the visit to exchange views on consolidation of ties and injecting momentum for the future progress and prosperity.