TASHKENT/ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that the present government was committed to remove impediments in the way of various businesses and industries, including the pharmaceutical industry. He said Pakistan and Uzbekistan had a lot of potential for joint ventures between their private sectors for mutual benefit.
The prime minister, in an interactive session with Pakistani businessmen in Tashkent, said unnecessary regulations were also being done away with to encourage and promote the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The premier said the government is finding difficulty in finding quality CEOs in government institutions as such experts mostly remain unwilling due to fear of NAB. He said that with change in NAB law, the government will get quality people from bureaucrats and business community. That is why, he said, the NAB law regarding bureaucracy and businessmen is being changed.
Earlier, Addressing the Uzbekistan-Pakistan Business Forum on ‘Central and South Asia 2021: Regional Connectivity Challenges and Opportunities’, the premier said Pakistan is keen for peace in Afghanistan through political settlement and considers it vital for trade connectivity among the regional countries. He said such trade linkages help in raising the living standards of the citizens.
Imran Khan referred to the cooperation among the neighbouring countries of the European Union that focused on bilateral trade arrangements for the benefit of their people. He hoped that with the support and will of the regional states, the situation in Afghanistan will improve.
The prime minister said the railway project among Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan would be a harbinger of development. He stressed that to exploit the region’s potential, peace and security in the neighbourhood was essential.
Imran Khan aired a call for close connectivity throughout the CASA (Central Asia – South Asia) region – citing how the lot of the common citizens in Europe had improved since the establishment of European Union.
“We want Pakistan and Uzbekistan to be connected by road, rail and air,” the prime minister stated.
After landing at Tashkent airport, Imran Khan directly reached the Pakistan-Uzbekistan Business forum to address the business communities of both the countries.
Imran Khan said Pakistan offered a market of 220 million people to Uzbekistan for economic development and investment purposes. He said Pakistani seaports could be Uzbekistan’s shortest and cheapest trade link with Middle East and Europe, and Islamabad was prepared to facilitate Uzbek trade through these ports.
“Pakistan has religious, cultural and spiritual relations with Uzbekistan – our relationship is centuries old,” he said.
The prime minister said. "I know the history of Uzbekistan more than Uzbek people.”
The prime minister voiced his ardent desire to promote people-to-people and businessmen-to-businessmen relations between the two countries, and expressed his satisfaction over the enthusiasm the people of Pakistan have for their Uzbek brethren. He said he had plans to visit Samarkand and Bukhara.
The prime minister, aided by his Adviser on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood held a one-on-one meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The Afghan situation was discussed at length in the meeting. The two leaders agreed to go to every length to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan – a neighbour of Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
After the summit meeting, the Pakistani side led by Imran Khan held delegation-level talks with the Uzbek side led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and discussed ways and means to increase connectivity between the two countries.
Based on background discussions with business leaders from the two countries on the sidelines of the conference, The News understands that trade between the two countries never dried up – although it was complicated by how the lack a single legal authority in Afghanistan tended to inflate transportation, insurance, and taxation costs besides throwing an unhealthy amount of uncertainty in the mix.
Dealing with paying taxes to different commanders in different parts of the route through Afghanistan is hardly a recipe for promoting trade. An added complication is that none of the trade taking place is formal trade. The need of the hour therefore is to activate formal trade channels between the two countries.
The protocols signed between the two parties included one on the exchange of pre-arrival information on goods moved across the borders of both countries, something the two business communities were keen on. Another protocol signed concerned the establishment of the Uzbekistan-Pakistan Business Council between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan and Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This protocol aims at facilitating the two countries’ chambers of commerce and industry to work closely.
A transit trade agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan was also signed – as was a protocol on cooperation in the field of military education. A memorandum of understanding between Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan and the University of World Economy and Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan was also signed.
In order to promote cultural ties, the Cultural Exchange Program 2021-2026 was also signed by respective officials of both countries. In order to promote tourism, MoU on matters relating to Tourism and facilitation of visa was also signed.
Foreign offices of the two countries also signed an agreement on simplification of visa procedures for businessmen and tourist groups.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also held a joint press conference with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during which he said Pakistan and Uzbekistan sharing the same objective of lifting their people out of poverty, increased and strong trade and economic relations would be mutually beneficial and a win-win for the two sides.
“Uzbekistan can benefit from Pakistan’s geo-strategic location, a market of 220 million people and providing access to the Middle East and Africa, while Pakistan can have access to the Central Asian states through Uzbekistan.
Stressing on the importance of economic cooperation, Imran Khan said the two countries were following similar visions of a new Uzbekistan and a new Pakistan to lift their people out of poverty through a welfare state.
China, he said, pursued the same strategy to lift their people out of poverty. The prime minister said Pakistan with a shift from geo-strategic to geo-economics, wanted to strengthen its trade and economic relations. He said Pakistan’s strong trade relations with Uzbekistan would be a win-win for the two countries.
The prime minister said when he was leaving for Tashkent, he received messages from a number of Pakistani businessmen expressing their desire to be part of the delegation. He welcomed the agreements signed between the two countries' private sectors, saying it was very important and would benefit both Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to further strengthen their bilateral relations through strategic partnership and enhanced cooperation in the areas of trade, economy, culture, tourism and connectivity for mutual benefit.
Imran Khan and Shavkat Mirziyoyev after holding wide ranging bilateral talks, exchanged views on issues of international and regional significance including the situation related to COVID-19 and agreed to build further cooperation in this regard.
Noting that Pakistan was among the first countries to recognise the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991, the leaders congratulated each other on approaching the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two brotherly countries and agreed to celebrate it in a befitting manner.
The leaders agreed to expand multifaceted bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and stressed the importance of closer coordination based on coinciding positions in the international arena. To this end, the leaders decided to use the existing political and economic mechanisms between the two countries, including consultations between ministries of foreign affairs.
The prime minister underlined the importance of structured engagement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan under the five pillars of Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia” policy i.e. political, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people contacts.
The importance of further strengthening cooperation at the SCO and multifaceted cooperation between the member states were emphasised.
Both leaders expressed their readiness to maintain a regular dialogue and build constructive cooperation in the field of security and defence.
The two leaders also recognized the immense potential of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for the benefit of the entire Central Asian region and beyond entailing greater connectivity and trade linkages through a network of transport, fibre optic cable, energy pipelines, and investment opportunities in its SEZs.
The two leaders welcomed the resumption of direct regular flights between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while giving an update on the PM’s two-day trip, said that Pakistan and Uzbekistan had vast potential to explore the opportunities of bilateral trade and investment for their mutual interest.
The minister said that businessmen from both the countries have shown immense interest in bilateral engagement. He said that the Pak-Uzbek Business Forum was attended by around 130 representatives of leading companies and business houses from Pakistan. He said the activity resulted in signing of agreements worth $453 million and hoped that it would lead to further strengthening of bilateral trade.