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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Turkey have signed a framework agreement for establishing free trade area between the two countries.

The framework will provide a basis for future negotiations on free trade agreement (FTA).

Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan and Turkey’s Minister of Economy Mustafa Elitas signed the framework agreement, which stipulated the broader outlines and the areas in which talks on FTA will proceed.

The framework states that the two sides would hold negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition policies and dispute settlement mechanism.

Talking to the media, Mr Dastgir said that traditional barriers to trade, including tariffs and quantitative restrictions, were being dismantled to promote cross-border trade. “We are living in the era of commercial diplomacy where trade is the foremost factor in shaping inter-state relations.”

He said that international trade is becoming an increasingly important factor in creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and efficiency of the domestic industry and strengthening development efforts.

Mr Elitas emphasised the importance of recent investments which Turkey has made in Pakistan, saying that the next logical step in this economic cooperation would be wider and deeper trade concessions.

He said Muslim countries should focus on establishing mutually and internationally recognisable standards in halal food to increase their market share. He said Turkish investment in renewable energy, housing, transport, sanitation and infrastructure would be enhanced in the near future.

Mr Dastgir said both countries would work on a list to offer concessions to each others. “We will finalise the list in consultation with stakeholders.”

He said the framework agreement was a major milestone towards the FTA, but did not determine the extent of market access both countries would offer in later stages of negotiations.

The two ministers launched the Pakistan chapter of All Industrialist and Businessmen Association, a Turkish state organisation which provides support to small and medium enterprises. This organisation will provide developmental and technical support to the emerging entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Mr Dastgir said Pakistan understood the commitments of Turkey arising out of its customs union with the European Union, under which more than 80 per cent of Turkey’s tariff lines are bound with the 28-nation bloc.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2016