Welcome Remarks and Country Statement by the Foreign Minister
15thSession of the D-8 Council of Ministers
Islamabad, 21 November 2012
Heads of Delegation
Honorable Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen
Before I begin, I just want to express, what I am sure is a sentiment shared by us all today about the events in Gaza. Some of my colleagues are returning from Gaza in show of solidarity.
The innocent people of Gaza are in our thoughts and prayers, and Pakistan once again condemns Israel’s aggression against the people of Palestine.
On behalf of the Government and the people of Pakistan, I warmly welcome you to Islamabad for the 15th Session of the Developing-8 Council of Ministers. Islamabad welcomes you with the best weather it has to offer.
Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to Secretary General Dr. Widi Pratikto and his team for assisting us in organizing the D-8 meetings in Islamabad. We must also express our appreciation of the work accomplished so diligently by the D-8 Commissioners during the past two days, especially yesterday as they worked till 2 am.
The Islamabad Summit has a special significance as it coincides with the 15th anniversary of the founding of D-8. This journey that we started in 1997 has enriched our fraternal relations, but there is so much more potential that we have yet to tap.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The D-8 group of countries came together in 1997 because we collectively believe that a better future for our people is within grasp. We share an intrinsic optimism about the benefits of working together, reducing the barriers between us, and enriching the lives of the one billion people that make up the D-8 family.
As eight large countries with large numbers of young people, the D-8 forum gives us an opportunity to collectively reflect on how we can work together to break down the barriers to the free movement of ideas, goods and services and people between our countries. In short, we must come up with ways that will unleash the creativity and innovation of our young people, and fuel a bright and sustainably prosperous future.
I am pleased that the Islamabad Summit is the venue for the adoption of two landmark documents: the D-8 Charter and the Global Vision. These documents provide the necessary stimulus to our collective endeavors.
To make the economies of the D-8 countries really ready for the next level, as envisaged by the D8 Charter and Global Vision, we will need strong and consistent efforts, not only from D-8 governments, but also from the private sectors in our respective countries.
To catalyze increased participation and interest from the private sector, we’ve invited business leaders, corporate executives, and exhibitors from your countries to participate in a Business Forum, a meeting of Trade Promotion Organizations, and a Trade Seminar. We hope these events will contribute towards forging meaningful business-to-business linkages among the D-8 community.
Pakistan’s own commitment to the D-8 process is reflected in the fact that we have ratified all three agreed framework instruments: Visa Facilitation, Customs Cooperation and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). We strongly urge the operationalization of these agreements at the earliest.
Let me also take this opportunity to invite the businessmen and investors from your countries to avail of the enormous business opportunities in Pakistan. Opportunities for investors exist in the energy, agriculture and agro-based industries, mineral development, transport and engineering sectors.
We have one of the most liberal investment regimes in the world.
Our greatest strength is our people. Pakistani skilled and unskilled labour is sought after the world-over for their diligence, competence and endurance. With greater foreign direct investment here at home, we believe our people can help businesses from around the world grow faster and more efficiently.
Moreover, given our substantial infrastructure and public services needs, this government, and all future governments in Pakistan have a natural incentive to support and facilitate public-private partnerships, that help improve the bottom line of investing companies and deliver real and tangible value to the people of Pakistan.
One of the most important meetings taking place at the Islamabad Summit is the heads of Central Banks meeting, which happens to be ongoing, in parallel to this session today. It is our desire that this process be institutionalized to identify ways and means of enhancing financial and monetary cooperation. We will be presented with the outcome document later in the day for adoption.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are pleased that Pakistan is hosting the D-8 Summit at a time when our democratic government is on the cusp of completing its five year term. It is our belief that democracy is central to attaining sustainable and lasting development.
It is only through democracy that we were able to secure the ownership of the people of Pakistan for the steps our government has taken to effectively address the challenges of national security and development.
As we move ahead with our national development agenda, we know that we can achieve economic development only in a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood. History has taught us this important lesson.
Our efforts are therefore directed towards bringing about peace and stability in South Asia and beyond. We have recently hosted the meeting of Afghan High Peace Council and will continue to support Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
We are also engaged with India to build mutual confidence, expand bilateral trade, and resolve outstanding issues, including the issue of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
From the UN Security Council, where Pakistan is currently a member, to Human Rights Council, to which we were elected this month, to the OIC, Pakistan always coordinates closely with the D-8 countries and other close friends to advocate for the causes that are important for the Muslim and developing world. Last week, at the initiative of President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan convened a Regional Ministerial Conference to work together to fight the menace of narcotic drugs and its nexus with terrorism.
Distinguished Heads of Delegations,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
I want to take this opportunity to commend the contribution of the Government of Nigeria as the D-8 Chair for providing outstanding leadership during the past two years.
As Pakistan assumes the Chair, it shall be our endeavor to further build on the ground covered so far and continue the cooperative spirit that guides our Organization.
As the incoming Chair, I wish to make following proposals for consideration by the Council:
· Operationalize all three of the framework agreements i.e. Preferential Trade Agreement, agreement on simplification of visa procedures for the businessmen of D-8 member states and multilateral agreement on administrative assistance in customs matters
· Evolve a mechanism to intensify interaction of private sector by regularly holding sector-specific Business Forums. D-8 Commission to identify sectors within the agreed priority parameters.
· Given the high importance of energy sector, hold periodic meetings of energy experts covering all sectors, and explore means to exchange information on projects available for public-private partnerships.
· Place special emphasis on cooperation in developing light engineering sector.
· Establish a mechanism for sharing investment opportunities in the mineral development sectors of our countries to explore vast untapped resources.
· Convene regular periodic meetings of investment promotion agencies for sharing best practices and for working on Memorandum of Understanding on Investment Promotion among the D-8 Countries.
· Focus on Halal sector. D-8 Commission may undertake a study for promoting Halal sector, in particular harmonization of accreditation and certification issues and to report at the next meeting of the Council.
· Institutionalize the meetings of Trade Promotion Organizations, to be held biennially to monitor progress on the acceleration of trade among the D-8 community and achievement of targets set in the Roadmap for the Second Decade of Cooperation, and
· Coordinate our position on issues of common concerns at international fora, in particular at the United Nations.
The socio-economic challenges are indeed daunting, but I believe that our will to overcome those challenges is stronger. With determination, we can surmount these challenges and achieve desired results for the socio economic development of our countries.
I thank you and once again hope you have a most pleasant stay in Pakistan.