Who are Pakistan's largest trading partners and how are you looking to diversify your export markets?
FAHEEM: As you know, Pakistan is now struggling to improve the economy of Pakistan. Although Pakistan has a very good economy, we see a great deal of room for improvement. Pakistan is having discussions with neighboring countries as well as the countries of Europe, the Far East, Africa and other places. We hope that in all fields, we can at least double the volume of trade between Pakistan and each of the countries we trade with. Preferably, we would like to more than double these figures, but our benchmark is to double our trade volume.
What type of bilateral or multilateral trade agreements are you currently pursuing?
FAHEEM: We have different bilateral agreements with different countries and we are in the process of having more open discussions with others. Pakistan has now been given access into the WTO. There were previously some political issues that prevented us from joining, but those issues have since passed. We are seeing today that many countries wish to be friendly to and help Pakistan, and we are ready to help them as well.
India and Pakistan are in the process of negotiating a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). What impact do you expect the PTA to have on the economic relationship between the two countries?
FAHEEM: We have opened up the relationship in the realm of trade. A Pakistani delegation went to India on the invitation of the Trade Minister of India. There were more than a hundred traders and businessmen accompanying the delegation to India. They had a chance to meet their counterparts and it was a very positive meeting. In the same fashion, I invited the Trade Minister of India, Mr. Sharma to visit our country. He came to Pakistan with a very large delegation and they visited Islamabad, Lahore and other places. It was a very positive meeting and I think that it was about time that Pakistan and India opened up their trade relationship considering that the border between Pakistan and India places us very near to each other. For example, from Lahore to Amritsar, you can drive down in just a few hours. The trade between India and Pakistan existed, but through different countries like the UAE, Singapore and other countries. After opening the door, the trade will go directly from Amritsar to Lahore, Lahore to Amritsar. It was just last month that I was in India and the Trade Minister and I jointly opened the 2nd gate at Atari. Pakistan's side, Wagah, was already opened. I think we have up until now moved at a very good speed to reach this stage of openness, however we must grow our trade volume between us to double the value that we have currently.
How would you describe the current level of competitiveness of Pakistan? What initiatives is the Ministry of Commerce taking to improve competitiveness?
FAHEEM: Pakistan is a very liberal country and a democratic country. We do everything according to international law. Pakistan has an open offer to the globe that Pakistan is a place where you can come to invest and your investment will be secure and we will provide you security. We offer a guarantee to those willing to partner with us. In this way, I think Pakistan is the right place to invest.
What impact did the global economic slowdown have on investment inflows into Pakistan?
FAHEEM: Actually, there are a few global problems that Pakistan is facing. For example, the issue of terrorism. We are working to curb terrorism. Bare in mind that we are not fighting our war, but the war of someone else, and to do this we have had to invest a great deal. Pakistan has invested billions of dollars to curb terrorism. If we were to spend the same amount on education, health, development, and other fields, Pakistan would be much better off today. Unfortunately, this is not the situation. However, even after investing a great deal to curb terrorism, Pakistan's economy is stable and we are doing well.
We must increase trade volume. Our goal is to move quickly and to double the current trade levels between different countries that trade with us. I think we are moving in the right direction.
What areas in particular do you think present the best opportunities for investment in Pakistan?
FAHEEM: Actually Pakistan is short of power nowadays. The economy and development depend on power. So, we are struggling to improve this situation. We are contacting neighboring countries to help with this issue and if this problem is resolved, Pakistan has a very vast scope of development ahead of it.
What is your general economic outlook for 2012/2013 for Pakistan? What is the Ministryâ€™s top priority for this period?
FAHEEM: In general, I think it's satisfactory, but needs improvement. Further, as I said, we must increase trade volume. Our goal is to move quickly and to double the current trade levels between different countries that trade with us. I think we are moving in the right direction.