ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the new Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) template whereby any dispute will now be remedied through local arbitration, disclosed Board of Investment (BoI) Secretary Fareena Mazhar while talking to a group of journalists on Sunday.
Ms Mazhar said the government had been facing difficulties in finalising investment treaties with some countries due to the Reko Diq case.
She said the new BIT template has been developed in consultation with all the stakeholders and with the active assistance of law and justice division and the attorney general of Pakistan.
She explained that all the new bilateral investment treaties would be negotiated in accordance with the new template in order to minimise the risk of international arbitration and to provide a policy space to government to enforce economic policies of public interest.
“We are also creating a grievance redressal mechanism through these BITs so that they do not escalate to the level where they have to be taken to international courts,” she reasoned.
Currently, Pakistan has signed 32 bilateral investment treaties with different countries, while the BoI is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding on investment with Uzbekistan this week.
As an investment treaty between the two countries was signed in 2006 for four years, matters pertaining to renewal of the treaty would be discussed during the Pak-Uzbek Joint Ministerial Commission meeting scheduled to be held on July 14 and 15 in Tashkent, the BOI secretary said.
On the sidelines of the joint commission meeting, a business-to-business summit will also be held to brief Uzbek investors and business community for increasing investment and trade relations between the two countries. Both states are also likely to sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the railways sector. During the joint commission meeting, business opportunities in food and agriculture as well as in the IT sector, particularly with reference to value addition, will be explored.
The BoI secretary claimed a new investment policy with a pro-active approach had been designed and a portal had been introduced with 150 projects for foreign investment worth $50 billion. The new portal is aimed at facilitating investment in any project in any part of Pakistan though projects will be awarded on the basis of international bidding. Major areas of investment are energy, infrastructure development, highways, dams and water sector projects.
Besides, a software programme, Investor Relationship Management System (IRMS), had been introduced to serve as an ‘investor trekker’, she said. So far, 47 no-objection certificates had been issued to investors under the automation facilities regime, she said, adding that corruption or extortion avenues could be eliminated only when procedures were automated and human handling reduced.
About the investment target, Ms Mazhar said an investment target of $3.7 billion was set for the current fiscal year. She said packages were being finalised for the priority sectors such as value-added textiles like sports-wear, bags, swim-wear and agro-based food like juices and jams, besides those related to logistics, tourism, and construction.
Joint ventures, SEZs
The BoI secretary said 13 Chinese and 60 Pakistani businessmen registered themselves with the recently launched portal exclusively for Chinese and Pakistan joint ventures in Pakistan. She said the BoI appointed eight honourary business counselors in China, all Chinese nationals, to assist business communities of both countries on the recommendation of Pakistan’s ambassador in China.
The BOI secretary said work on three of the nine special economic zones (SEZs) — in Rashakai near Nowshera, Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Faisalabad and Dhabeji near Karachi — being established under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor had already been started, while the Sindh government would soon engage a developer for the Dhabeji economic zone. She said the Dhabeji economic zone was promising since the 1,500 acres of land ideal for investment since it would access to the Karachi port. A Chinese project had already started in Rashakai while work on Allama Iqbal Industrial City was also under way.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2021