Islamabad , Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar Tuesday said Islamabad considers its relation with the European Union exceptionally important adding Pak and EU have launched the strategic dialogue to further deepen ties in diverse fields.
Addressing a joint news conference along with the Foreign Policy Head of EU Catherin Ashton, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the strategic dialogue between the two countries will serve as a component to implement the five year engagement plan.
The foreign minister said Pakistan considers its relations with the EU exceptionally important as it has always gone an extra mile to support and strengthen democracy in the country.
She said we can transform this relationship into a long term partnership for the mutual benefit of the peoples of both Pakistan and the European Union.
She said the European Union happens to be our largest trading partner. Our exports to the European Union stands 4.6 billion euros while imports 3.7 billion euros .
The total volume of trade is about 8.3 billion euros. During the last decade, bilateral trade has gone up by seventy seven percent.
She said under the three year development plan, the European Union is giving Pakistan 225 million euros for the socio economic uplift. The amount is being spent for the development projects especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab provinces.
She said the European Union has always responded to Pakistan’s needs and supported us in difficult times.
Referring to the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war against terrorism and the havoc played by the 2010 floods, she said that the EU not only came up with the cash assistance but also responded by granting the preferential trade access to Pakistani products.
She said we are close to implement the preferential trade agreement and Pakistani products will get GSP Plus status into the EU markets. This, she said, will open new opportunties for Pakistani businessmen and create thousands of new job opportunties.
Hina Rabbani Khar said both the sides have agreed to institutionalize Summit Level talks for greater engagement and promotion of relations. She expressed the confidence that both the sides will also engage in talks for the free trade agreement.
In her remarks, Foreign Policy Head of EU Catherin Ashton said the European Union recognizes the challenges and sacrifices made by Pakistan.
Considering it as an important country in the region, she said we want long term relationship with Pakistan to help it meet challenges.
She said the strategic dialogue launched today will enable both the countries to build on their relations on political and security issues.
She said the EU is the largest humanitarian donors in Pakistan and it will continue to assist Pakistan for consolidation of its economy and democracy besides addressing the challenges of energy and other issues.
Catherine Ashton described her talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as excellent and said such engagements will prove to be productive to further strengthen the relations.
Responding to a question, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Pakistan has done record legislation for the protection of rights of women and minorities.
She said that formation of independent human rights commission and the legislation for the empowerment of women are the hallmark of the present government.
When asked about the impact of GSP plus for Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar believed it will definitely help earn valuable foreign exchange reserves but at the same time it will open new opportunites for the Pakistani businessmen and create new jobs opportunties. Shesaid that is why our focus is more on trade than aid.
To a question, Catherine Ashton admitted the delay in granting GSP plus status to Pakistan but said that it will definitely have a diret impact on the economy of the country.
The grant of GSP plus status to Pakistan reflects the EU desire to help Pakistan that has suffered heavily due to the war against terrorism and the natural calamities.