Regional partners: Pakistan, Nepal deepen economic ties

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ISLAMABAD:

Nepal has sought reduction in air cargo fare besides increasing numbers of passenger flights between Nepal and Pakistan as the landlocked nation seeks to enhance its economic and commercial ties with Pakistan.

These views were exchanged when finance ministers of both countries met during the sixth session of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) on Monday, the first after eight years.

 

Both countries will exchange a draft for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as Pakistan expressed interest in exploring the closed Nepalese market, which is heavily penetrated by Indian goods due to the country’s proximity with New Delhi. India treats Nepal as a buffer state against China, as the country is sandwiched between two giants.

Besides negotiating the possibility of reducing cargo fares and increasing passenger flights, both countries will look into the option of training Nepalese pilots and aeronautical engineers during a two-day long meeting of the JEC.

Currently flights between the two countries are routed through gulf countries and India, as there are only a couple of weekly direct flights between the two countries. Due to this a distance that can be covered in less than two hours takes seven to nine hours.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar urged the need for taking concrete measures for increasing and diversifying bilateral trade. He said fruitful discussions during a meeting by the Joint Technical Committee held last month would help in furthering the FTA agenda. Dar said any early conclusion of FTA will open new vistas in promoting bilateral trade.

Dar invited Nepalese investors to invest in coal-based power plants, as the country plans to set up ten plants of 660 megawatts each in Balochistan.

Minister for Finance of Nepal Shanker Prasad Koirala showed concern over the limited volume of bilateral trade and its tilt in favour of Pakistan. He said that although the volume of bilateral trade was small, Nepal still has a significant trade deficit with Pakistan.

“We need to improve the trade environment between the two countries, by reforming both tariff and non-tariff barriers and preferential cargo tariffs”, he added. Koirala requested Pakistan to enhance scholarships for Nepalese students in Pakistan.

During two-day session of the JEC, both countries will also look into measures needed to enhance trade. They will also hold discussions on possible areas of cooperation in telecom sector and exploring areas for bilateral cooperation in agriculture, education, tourism and heath.

Dar said despite internal and external challenges such as the war against terror, a severe energy crisis and phenomenal surge in commodity prices over the last few years, Pakistan has been able to maintain a reasonable growth trajectory.

Dar said Pakistan sought Nepalese expertise in alternate sources of energy. Both the countries are expected to sign a pact to enhance cooperation between the Alternate Energy Board of Pakistan and Alternate Energy Promotion Centre of Nepal for sharing their experience in this area.

He said Pakistan was deepening financial market reforms. As part of the measures taken by the country, small investors will be offered protection in case of any untoward event, and by end of next month the treasury bills and Pakistan Investment Bonds will be listed in the Karachi Stock Exchange for investment by the general public.


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