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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Canada have decided to hold a joint working group meeting next month in Islamabad to identify and remove bottlenecks in bilateral trade relations and develop partnerships in economic, trade, agriculture and investment sectors.

This was decided during a meeting between Commerce Minister Pervez Malik, Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in Ottawa on Monday.

Mr Malik informed the Canadian side that under the World Trade Organisation framework, Pakistan is looking for a level playing field for its exports to the Canadian market.

However, issues like travel advisory for Canadian business community to visit Pakistan and visa restrictions for Pakistani businessmen were affecting the bilateral trade. He urged for immediate removal of these irritants in order to enhance the bilateral trade volume.

Due to its prudent economic policies, Pakistan has laid the foundation of sustained economic growth and macroeconomic stability, and offers attractive trade and investment opportunities to Canadian investors and, on a reciprocal basis, seeks greater market access for its products, Mr Malik informed his Canadian counterpart.

He added that Pakistan’s investment policy, characterised by liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation, is one of the most liberal ones in the region, providing a conducive environment for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

He highlighted the manifold increase in FDIs in energy and infrastructure projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor and international investments in automobile, telecom, manufacturing and tourism industries in Pakistan.

The minister underlined that Pakistan meets the priority of Canada’s foreign trade in consumer products, industrial machinery, ICT goods, infrastructure, mining, oil and gas, clean technologies, agriculture and education sectors. He said that with, over a 200 million consumer market and a large booming middle class, Pakistan is a promising market for Canadian goods, services and investments.

Mr Champagne expressed his gratitude to the commerce minister for accepting the invitation to hold the trade dialogue in Ottawa. He said that Canada would like to increase the trade volume between the two countries and all practical steps would be taken to enhance cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Canada also seeks to enhance relations with emerging economies and partners in Asia and Pakistan certainly provides an opportunity for Canadian investors to benefit from an increasing demand of consumer goods and services, he added.

Mr Hussen briefed the delegation about the steps being taken to ease the visa processing for Pakistani businessmen, students and tourists. Pakistan has a great potential and Canada would like to facilitate bureaucratic procedures for all categories in order to increase people-to-people ties, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2018