SINGAPORE, May 10: Pakistan and Singapore on Tuesday decided to hold the next round of talks on the Free Trade Agreement in June for its early conclusion and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on combating terrorism. The decision to accelerate negotiations on FTA was taken at the formal talks between Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who arrived here in the afternoon on a three-day official visit.
The delegation-level talks that took place at the Presidential Palace Istana went on for about an hour. Singapore welcomed efforts being made by Pakistan to attain the status of full dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
During the talks, Mr Aziz endorsed the need for developing linkages and creating mutual dependencies, a view that his counterpart endorsed. Mr Loong appreciated Pakistan’s ‘Look East’ policy and initiatives for integration with other regional groupings. He also supported collaboration with Pakistan in the trade area and hoped that the FTA would remove trade barriers and create investment opportunities for both countries.
Prime Minister Aziz invited investment from Singapore in the Telecom, IT, engineering, bio-technology, tourism and banking sectors.
Later, both the leaders witnessed the signing ceremony of the MoU on ‘Combating Terrorism and Other Trans-national Crimes’.
BANQUET: In the evening, Mr Loong hosted a banquet in honour of Mr Aziz and members of his delegation.
In his welcome address, Mr Loong said there was also growing interest in Singapore towards South Asia and the Middle East. “Pakistan is situated at the junction of these two regions, and is well placed to be strategic partner for Singapore,” he said.
Lauding efforts made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism, he said: “Singapore has much to learn from Pakistan’s experience, so I am pleased that our officials have undertaken to expand bilateral cooperation on the security front.”
He welcomed the Indo-Pakistan peace process and said he was most encouraged to see that the situation in South Asia had stabilized and India-Pakistan relations were improving.
“Both India and Pakistan are our friends and we hope that they will be able to resolve or at least manage bilateral problems peacefully, no matter how difficult they are and how long it will take,” he said.
Prime Minister Aziz said Pakistan admired Singapore for its spectacular economic transformation and the example it had set for the developing world.
“Our two countries share the vision of Asia as the continent destined for rapid growth, seeking social justice, excellence in education and advancement in technology,” he said.
“We hope that very soon Pakistan will become a full dialogue partner with Asean leading to its place in the East Asian community. We seek Singapore’s support in this endeavour that should allow us to play our full role as partners in the region,” he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Aziz attended a formal welcome ceremony at Istana where he was received by Prime Minister Loong.