Pak, Singapore plan trade pact

Agence France Presse

Singapore, May 11:

Singapore and Pakistan will begin negotiations next month on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

“Our countries have now agreed to launch negotiations on a bilateral FTA in June this year,” Lee said yesterday at a dinner for visiting Pakistan prime minister Shaukat Aziz. “We should make this an ambitious and meaningful FTA that will pave the way for stronger economic linkages between our countries.”

Lee described current trade ties as ‘modest’ in comparison with the city-stade’s links with other South Asian countries. Singapore’s trade with Pakistan totalled $1.02 billion dollars last year. Lee noted in his speech that Singapore was already concluding an FTA with India and had begun exploratory talks with Sri Lank, but had not yet made any progress with Pakistan.

“But I am glad that we are rectifying this,” he said.

The city-state, whose economy is heavily dependent on foreign trade, is a pioneer in negotiating free-trade pacts, having signed such agreements with the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, among others. In his speech at the dinner, Aziz, who lived in Singapore when he was a banker in the 1990s, urged Singaporean businessmen to invest in his country. “Let me assure you that the private sector of Pakistan is eager to develop a business partnership with Singapore,” Aziz said, according to the Straits Times.

“We’re now among the fast-growing economies in the region. We have consistency of policies, political stability and a forward looking government.”

Aziz is on a four-nation visit to Southeast Asia with Singapore the last stop of the tour. He earlier visited Brunei, Thailand and Malaysia.