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Zardari calls for tarrif cuts, trade liberalisation

17 October, 2012

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BAKU: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday urged members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation to expedite implementation of past agreements for trade liberalisation besides cutting down tariff and non-tariff barriers.

"We must resolve to operationalise the ECO Trade Agreement from January 1, 2013, and should also facilitate the private sector for promotion of trade, transport and energy sectors," he said while speaking at the 12th ECO summit.

Emphasising on regional connectivity, the president said the vision of regional connectivity and trade articulated at the 3rd ECO summit in Islamabad was given by his wife Benazir Bhutto. "This common heritage has given us the collective political will and the modus operandi for further regional cooperation and integration amongst our 10 countries," he said.

President Zardari regional blocks like the European Union and ASEAN continue to deepen their regional linkages but the ECO continues to speak only of potential, rather than results.

Identifying some of the challenges, the president said there were three clear dangers that will prevent achieving the potential, which include terrorism, poverty and illiteracy and the threat to the fundamental rights to the people, most of all, daughters.

"I opened this speech with a mention of the Daughter of the East but I must speak to you today about the Daughter of Pakistan - my daughter Malala Yousufzai," he said and added Malala has been an advocate for girls' education since 11 years of age.

He said last week Malala's attackers did not just try to kill the "Daughter of Pakistan" when they attacked her but they tried to kill Pakistan. He termed the attack on Malala an attack on every child in the region and on the future of the region.

"The Taliban attack on the 14-year-old girl, who from the age of 11 was involved in the struggle for education for girls, is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilised people," Zardari said.

He said Malala had done more for Pakistan's future than any military operation had done or would do in the future. He invited ECO leaders to join hands with Pakistan and commit together to a collective future in which Malala and her sisters from their countries would have a secure future, bright and promising future defined by courage, knowledge and prosperity.

He urged for joint action against terrorists and said the people of Afghanistan must understand that Pakistan was with them in this struggle and that the two countries had suffered together. "The terrorists want brother to fight brother. We reject the terrorists and we also reject the blame game. We also reject allowing terrorists to define us as we will define ourselves by what we truly are," he remarked. Zardari offered the member states to host the next ECO summit in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, President Zardari met his counterpart from Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on the sidelines of the ECO summit and said Pakistan attached great importance to its relations with Azerbaijan and desires to further strengthen trade and commercial ties to the mutual benefit of the two countries. The two leaders discussed bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest with particular focus on trade and economic relations and cooperation in diverse fields.

The president urged for enhancing people-to-people contacts between the two countries, which, he said, would help solidifying friendship between the two countries.

Zadari also met Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmedinejad on the sidelines of the summit, and emphasised the need for expeditious implementation of various joint mega projects.

The two leaders discussed the multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and rail and road projects.

He said greater interactions between the leadership and the people of the two countries would not only strengthen mutual historical, cultural and religious bonds but would also help to benefit from each others' resources and expertise.

End.

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