ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Thursday said the focus of ‘transformed’ Pakistan was shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics based on a new ‘economic security paradigm.’
The foreign minister was speaking at the joint inauguration of Hungary-Pakistan Trade and Economic Window (HPTEW) during the virtually-held first Hungary-Pakistan business forum.
The Hungarian delegation was led by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
Qureshi, in his welcome address underlined the importance Pakistan attached to Hungary, both bilaterally, and within the European Union (EU).
Focusing specifically on enhancing bilateral trade and economic ties, he invited Hungarian companies to take advantage of the investor-friendly climate in Pakistan to enter into joint ventures with Pakistani companies, especially in the special economic zones (SEZs) under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
He said 16 SEZs were being established with liberal incentives, infrastructure, investor facilitation services and reduced cost of doing business.
He welcomed Hungarian expertise in the fields of agriculture and food, environment, water resource management, engineering, vocational training, and urban planning.
The foreign minister also invited Hungarian companies and businesses to come and invest in Pakistan and pursue joint venture opportunities with Pakistani businesses, adding that the government had introduced new incentives, backed by regulatory ease, in key sectors such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, construction, IT, and tourism.
Qureshi also pointed out that Pakistan’s policy on alternative energy had been found attractive by influential international players and this was one avenue which Hungarian investors could look into.
He said Pakistan, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, had undergone a transformation and shifted its priorities from geopolitics to geo-economics based on a new ‘economic security paradigm.’
The new economic security paradigm has three essential pillars: peace, development partnerships, and connectivity, he added.
“My government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, attaches great importance to enhancing Pakistan’s trade and economic relations with our partners. The transformed Pakistan’s focus is shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics,” Qureshi said.
Qureshi said that the structural and policy reforms undertaken by the government had led to an improved investment ecosystem, further citing Pakistan’s improvement by 28 ranks on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index and by 58 positions in the starting a business indicator.
“Our investment policy offers equal treatment for local and foreign investors. All economic sectors are now open to foreign direct investment,” he added. Appreciating the improving economic cooperation between Pakistan and Hungarian businesses, despite Covid-19, the foreign minister also highlighted the importance of collaboration in the fight against the pandemic.
He further pointed out that Pakistan was known for its textiles, leather, surgical goods, pharmaceuticals, and food items such as mangoes and rice where it had a comparative advantage.
Both countries could stand to benefit from collaboration in these fields and make use of the other’s experience, he added.
He said the government of Pakistan had eased visa requirements for businessmen from 95 countries including Hungary, adding that the business community could avail visa on arrival facility.
He said similar facilitations were also available for tourists such as online visas and fast visa processing.
The foreign minister noted that the improved security situation in the country, along with government reforms, had led to many European countries revising their travel advisories for Pakistan and international airlines resuming their flights to Pakistan.
He said increasing air linkages would ease travel of Hungarian businessmen and tourists to Pakistan.
“We hope that Hungary will revise its travel advisory for Pakistan which would enable the two countries to further enhance our linkages,” he asserted.
Qureshi also expressed his appreciation for Hungary’s support in the extension of the Generalized System of Preferences-Plus (GSP-Plus) status for Pakistan.
He said the scheme had paid off greatly with the volume of trade between Pakistan and the EU having doubled and the EU becoming the largest trading partner of Pakistan.
“I hope that dividends would now translate into increase in Pakistan-Hungary trade as well as the current volume of $44.3 million is definitely much lower than the potential,” he added.
He also thanked the Hungarian government for providing scholarships to Pakistani students who would forge strong people-to-people links between the countries.
“There is a need for exchanging high-level visits between our two countries as well as at the private sector level to consolidate the existing level of cooperation,” he said, adding that when the pandemic situation improves, the two countries focus on exchanging business delegations and promoting bilateral trade and investment opportunities.
He further said Pakistan looked forward to hosting the second session of the Pakistan-Hungary Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation in Islamabad this year.
The Hungarian foreign minister agreed with Foreign Minister Qureshi that boosting linkages in all areas, particularly the economy, trade, and enhanced people-to-people exchanges, would lead to fully realising the economic potential between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Szijjarto said Hungary’s policy of opening towards East would provide a good impetus to Pakistan-Hungary relations.
Foreign Minister Qureshi also extended an invitation to the Hungarian foreign minister to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.
The online event was jointly organised by the All Pakistan Business Forum, Hungarian Export Promotion Agency, Embassy of Hungary in Islamabad, and the Pakistan Embassy in Budapest.
More than 100 well-reputed Hungarian and Pakistani companies attended the event.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021