Pakistan, Australia agree to further enhance bilateral trade

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Australia Wednesday agreed to further enhance and strengthen bilateral trade especially in the field of agriculture for the benefit of the two countries.

The agreement was reached in talks between the delegations of the two countries here at Foreign Office.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who arrived here earlier in the day on a two day visit, led her country’s delegation while Pakistan’s side was led by Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Addressing a joint press conference after the talks, Sartaj Aziz said that Australia had been asked to provide greater market access to Pakistani products. He said that Pakistan and Australia enjoyed excellent relations, which were based on mutual respect and shared interests.

The two side, he added, agreed to further consolidate the existing friendly people to people contacts underpinned by the presence of 80,000 strong Pakistani diaspora and around 13,000 students in Australia.

Aziz said the two sides focused on the need for regular political exchanges including high level visits.

“We feel that exchange of parliamentary visits is important,” he said.

Appreciating the Australian Development Cooperation Programme, the advisor said that Pakistan would like to strengthen interaction with Australia in agriculture, livestock and water resource management.

Both the countries, he said, also agreed to continue to focus on sports and culture.

The Advisor said that Pakistan and Australia shared common perceptions in combating terrorism.

“We resolve to continue our cooperation on counter-terrorism and transnational crime.”

He said regional and global issues of importance, especially the latest situation in Afghanistan, was also discussed.

Sartaj Aziz said Foreign Secretary level talks between Pakistan and Australia were held in Canberra in March this year which were preceded by the Defence and Security Dialogue in Islamabad in February.

He said the Australian FM’s visit provided a good opportunity to review the bilateral relations. The two sides also discussed matters pertaining to the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Australia which might be possible by the end of this year or in the start of next year.

He said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sharif to visit Australia during the World Cup in February this year but due to other engagements this visit could not take place.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with Pakistan.

“We have long been friends and want to diversify cooperation in different fields,” she said.

The Foreign Minister said both the countries had common interests in countering transnational crimes including drug and human smuggling.

She announced 24 million Australian dollars development assistance to support Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating regional trade and investment as well as for the rehabilitation of its border areas.

This support, she said was part of a package of over $41.3 million in development assistance.

Ten million Australian dollars out of this assistance would be provided to Pakistan to restore damaged infrastructure, improve local and provincial service delivery and support the livelihoods of population affected by floods and conflict in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, FATA and Balochistan through the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Border Area Programme.

Replying to a question on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the Australian Foreign Minister said Pakistan and India must come together and continue negotiations to resolve this issue bilaterally.

Australia, she said did not take sides but wanted to resolve the dispute through the dialogue process.

Replying to another question, she said that Pakistan and Australia also shared information on the security issue of Afghanistan. There was still a small presence of Australian army of 400 personnel in Afghanistan to train the Afghan Army and capacity building.

She said it was vital for the region that both Pakistan and Afghanistan work together to manage the porous border and effectively fight the menace of terrorism.

Replying to a question regarding Daish (IS militants), she said it was a serious concern for Australia being a global threat. About 100 Australian nationals, she said were reportedly fighting with Daish militants in Syria.

Recognising the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror, the Foreign Minister said under a plan her country was sending Australian students to different countries including Pakistan.

Such visits, she said would give a message to the world that Pakistan was a safe place.

Replying to question on Australian-India civil nuclear cooperation, Julie Bishop said Australia was a power house and wanted to export energy to the world. Currently both Australia and India were negotiating the deal, she said adding that her country would extend the facility to India under strict controls.