The Manila Times - 23 April 2021
Pakistani envoy eyes closer trade ties with PH
By Anna Leah E. Gonzales
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad Kazi said on Wednesday he would push for the inclusion of Pakistan in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to boost trade with the Philippines and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“In 2008 we had comprehensive economic partnership agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia. We also had similar arrangement in 2016 when I was director general of East Asia Pacific countries in foreign office — we were negotiating with Thailand, free trade agreement, we already have with China also, but I think most important in these days is what has been accomplished last year in November, which is the RCEP agreement between 15 countries — Asean plus 5 — and I’m going to recommend Pakistan to become part of that. Once we are in that group, automatically we will have all the Asean related tariff reductions as well as between all the 15 countries,” said Kazi during a roundtable with The Manila Times.
The RCEP, which includes the 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, is the world’s largest trade pact in terms of gross domestic product.
“So I would request them -— and they will study RCEP procedures — and if we can join that, this automatically takes care of our [Philippines-Pakistan] bilateral FTA (free trade agreements) that there’s no need [for] that once we join the RCEP. Let’s see how things work out in that, we’ll keep doing our best,” the ambassador said.
Kazi said that while there were several initiatives to increase trade between the Philippines and Pakistan, a negotiation for a possible preferential trade agreement is yet to push through.
He added that Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo earlier informed him that the Cabinet was deliberating the possibility of relaxing import rules for Pakistani rice.
“So, these are good developments. But you are right; we need to come to a point where we should have some preferential trade. We already had it in Malaysia when I was deputy high commissioner in 2009,” Kazi said.
The bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $154 million in 2020. Pakistan’s exports to the Philippines stood at $120 million.
Philippine exports to Pakistan include garments, paper products, cosmetics, dairy products, processed fruits, coconut products, tobacco, electronic components and machineries, iron, steel, cement, and chemicals.
Top imports from Pakistan were housewares, textiles, processed foods, dairy products, marine products, fresh foods, tobacco, textile yarns and twines, and industrial products.
Besides strengthening economic ties, Kazi expressed enthusiasm on the revival of the Philippine Embassy’s Defense Wing in Islamabad in 2020 and the planned drafting of a memorandum of understanding for the Pakistan-Philippines defense cooperation.
He cited the Pakistani armed forces’ exceptional capabilities and experience in fighting terrorism, which the Philippines could benefit from.
Kazi said both countries could share intelligence since the Philippines was also dealing with terrorists’ threat particularly in Mindanao.