The need to boost ties with Pakistan

Despite its diplomatic presence since 2006 and increasing number of students to pursue their higher education and doctorate studies in our universities, Pakistan’s trade with New Zealand has remained modest at $137 million as at the end of April 2012, according to the Trade Ministry.

Pakistan’s total exports (FOB) to New Zealand stood at $57 million, compared to imports (CIF) valued at $80 million during this period.

The country established its diplomatic mission in Wellington seven years ago (Indian Newslink, June 1, 2006), following the visit of then President General Pervez Musharraf to New Zealand in June 2005. Since then, both countries have expressed their desire to increase two-way trade, but there has been little progress.

Visits at ministerial levels have been sparse- while the then Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri visited Wellington in May 2005, Mr Musharraf brought with him a number of his ministers in June that year – there have been only two visits from the New Zealand side in the past 23 years – that of the then Prime Minister Mike Moore (1990) and the then Foreign Minister Phil Goff (2004), both from the Labour Party.

Zehra Akbari, who took charge as (the third) High Commissioner of Pakistan in Wellington on May 16, believes that there is ample potential for her country’s constructive engagement with New Zealand.

“The two countries are focusing on development of relations in trade and commerce, education and agriculture. These are areas in which tangible results could be achieved in reasonable time. The two countries are endeavouring to encourage and facilitate development of industrial, agricultural and commercial cooperation between enterprises and private sectors of the two countries,” she said (read our front page story).

New Zealand’s exports to Pakistan comprise mainly dairy products, aircraft parts, iron and steel, animal fats, hides and skins, wool, machinery, processed cocoa, chocolate and wool.

Among the imports from Pakistan are linen (bathroom and kitchen), cereals, clothing accessories, manmade filaments, woollen accessories, leather products, sporting equipment and sugar.

A Trade Ministry communique, which provided the above details, identified agriculture and education as areas of potential growth in trade relationship between the two countries.

“New Zealanders have been involved in the development of Pakistan’s dairy industry, which the Pakistan Government has determined as an area requiring greater investment. Pakistan Government scholarship students attend New Zealand universities in small numbers and are a useful addition to the bilateral relationship.

The Pakistan–New Zealand Chamber of Commerce and Professionals, based in New Zealand, play a role in facilitating commercial exchanges between the two countries,” the communique said.

People of Pakistani origin have been in New Zealand since long, and apart from enjoying the benefits of dual citizenship, they have been active partners in this country’s economic and social progress. They have also been instrumental in promoting business-to-business and people-to-people relationship between the two countries.

But at the official level, most of New Zealand’s interactions with Pakistan have been through multilateral groupings.

Pakistan has been a beneficiary of New Zealand’s aid to foreign countries, although there is no formal bilateral aid programme between the two nations. Our Government provides funds on a case-to-case basis to the UN and partner Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in Pakistan.

These include $2.25 million for the victims affected by the earthquake in Northern Pakistan in 2005, flood relief of $500,000 each in 2007 and 2011; and $6 million (in two tranches) in 2010, $1 million in 2009 to assist people displaced by fighting between the Pakistan government and Islamic extremists.

“Small amounts of funding are available through a Head of Mission Fund administered by the Foreign Affairs & Trade Ministry. Funds have been provided in the past for water pumps in remote villages, medical equipment, micro-credit funding, and assistance to some schools.

“There are opportunities for New Zealand NGOs to apply for funding from New Zealand’s Aid Programme’s Sustainable Development Fund, which emphasises economic development initiatives,” the source said.

Mrs Akbari described Pakistan as an ancient civilisation but a modern country.

“Pakistan is an emerging economy with 180 million people. It is a prime location at the cross roads of South, Central and West Asia. Our country can serve as an important market for intra and inter-regional trade and investment. Our Government has adopted liberal and investor friendly policies including equal treatment to both local and foreign investors, easy tariff structure and a liberal regime for repatriation of profits,” she said.

She said that Pakistan is endowed with natural beauty as well as treasures of history and civilisations.

“It is rich in natural and agricultural resources. Pakistanis are hardworking, enterprising and innovative people. They are keen to learn from New Zealand and work for win-win partnerships based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefit. I am confident that our two sides will work together to take our bilateral relations including economic and trade cooperation to new heights,” she said.

In its Information Paper released on March 25, 2013, the Trade Ministry acknowledged the importance of improving bilateral ties with Asia in the ensuing years.

“The wider Asian region is playing an ever more important role in New Zealand’s international relationships. China and India are expected to be the world’s two biggest economies by 2050. Six of our top ten trading partners are in Asia. Events in Asia are of critical importance to New Zealand’s economic and security interests,” it said.

The Government will do well to include Pakistan in its international trade equation, not only to maintain a justifiable balance in its South Asia Policy but also utilise the existing and emerging economic and commercial opportunities in that country.

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