ISLAMABAD: The Japanese government has decided to deepen political dialogue with Pakistan after considering economic and social policies of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn, Japanese Ambassador Kuninori Matsuda said: “We are now working on our plan to help the Pakistan government mainly in three areas: building economic infrastructures, building social infrastructures like schools and medical facilities and security and public safety.”
Ambassador Matsuda said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would shortly visit Tokyo, and officials of the two countries were working to finalise the trip. The Japanese government was looking forward to the minister’s visit, he added.
He said that “we are very much impressed the way Prime Minister Imran Khan articulated his goals on economic and social policies, and many of these goals incidentally fit in how we see the Pakistani challenges”.
Says Foreign Minister Qureshi is expected to visit Tokyo shortly
Emphasising the importance of education, the ambassador said that Pakistan’s population — of which 60 per cent is under 30 years of age — was the strong point of the country as compared to Japan which was suffering from decrease in population, ageing society and decrease in workforce.
Japan, he said, was ready and willing to work with Pakistani partners to address the issues such as education and vocational training and female empowerment. “Half of the population is women and we all like to see all women coming into the workforce,” he said.
Encouraged by Pakistan government’s measures to promote tourism, the Japanese ambassador said that these measures would make Pakistan a favourite international tourism destination.
Ambassador Matsuda underlined the need for more direct flights to and from Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. The announcement by British Airways and Lufthansa to start flight operations to Pakistan was a very encouraging sign, he added.
Ambassador Matsuda said that agriculture, textile and automobile were potential sectors for future collaboration between Japan and Pakistan.
Many Japanese companies, he said, were interested in either investing in the agriculture industry by funding and bringing technology or even creating market for Pakistan’s agricultural products.
In the textile sector, he said, Japan was willing to continue working with the government and the private sector so that the sector grew to become the exporting industry.
Referring to his recent visit to textile city Faisalabad, and said that he was highly impressed with the quality of textile products.
Three major automobiles manufacturing units from Japan had well-established markets in Pakistan, he said, adding that Japan was now interested in turning the automobile industry in the country to another exporting industry.
About bilateral trade relations, the ambassador said that exports from Japan to Pakistan had been growing, while exports from Pakistan to Japan faced stagnation and this imbalance was not sustainable. “We have to find way either to increase exports from Pakistan like textile and agriculture or other areas or the two countries could work together in creating new export market for Pakistan,” he said.
In view of the geographic location of Pakistan, he added, the best way was to start working to explore new markets for Pakistani exporting companies in the Gulf, Central Asian Republics and the Middle East and beyond Africa. The Japanese companies might partner with Pakistani companies to create new markets, he said.
He said the official Japanese trade organisation, JETRO, was inviting Pakistani companies to participate in exhibitions and trade fairs in Japan so that the potential buyers in Japan could be given the opportunity to understand the potential of Pakistani companies. “This area has a big potential for Pak-Japan trade and we are already working on several matters,” he added.
Citing an example, the ambassador said there was wide scope for exporting medical equipment and sports goods to Japan. In the area of sports goods, the ambassador was hopeful of great business opportunities for sports goods manufactured in Sialkot, pointing out that Japan would host Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.
The envoy lauded the government’s efforts to create more investment-friendly environment in Pakistan.
He suggested that Pakistan should start working on disseminating the basic information about the country as a business destination in view of its strategic location. “The government can use the established network of embassies, consulates and trade offices to the maximum,” he said.
If Pakistan could create regional free trade zones with neighbouring countries, it would help the country’s export industries. “Pakistan enjoys strong economic relations with Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia and if the country further stretches beyond to create regional economic free trade zone, it will help the national economy,” said Ambassador Mastuda.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2019