Saudi Arabia favors Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan, but is waiting approval of the Gulf Cooperation Council for initiating the process, said Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah here yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the 9th session of Saudi-Pakistan Joint Commission, he said the two countries have agreed to expand bilateral economic and trade relations.
The sides sought speedy measures to sign an agreement for strengthening security cooperation and combating drugs. The next meeting of the commission will be held in Riyadh in March.
The two sides have decided to remove all obstacles facing expansion of bilateral trade ties, Al-Rabiah said. “We have agreed to expand cooperation in the banking sector to facilitate trade and financing of exports.” Saudi-Pakistan trade volume stands at SR 18 billion and there is wide scope for its expansion, he added.
Referring to Pakistan’s request on a $ 131 million financial assistance for the Neelam-Jhelum Hydropower Project, Al-Rabiah said a decision on the matter would be taken by the Saudi Fund for Development, which is assisting Pakistan on this project.
He said there are good opportunities for investment in agriculture and other fields and that Saudi companies have to explore possibilities of joint ventures.
During the meeting, the Saudi side expressed its desire to sign a technical cooperation agreement with Pakistan for the maintenance of quality and standards and the Pakistanis endorsed the move. The Pakistanis wanted the Saudis to invest in their new economic zones that were established recently.
“The two sides have agreed to promote cooperation between universities and research centers, exchange of scholarships, health training and exchange of health expertise and boosting cultural ties,” said the final communiqué issued after the meeting.
During the technical discussions held in Islamabad, delegates from both countries presented various proposals to enhance bilateral trade and industrial development, joint ventures, promotion of banking, investment and energy. Besides, discussion regarding export of labor to Saudi Arabia and exchange of youth delegations were also held.
Main decisions at the commission meeting were resumption of talks on the draft agreement for promotion and protection of investments in both countries, facilitating necessary entry visas for businessmen in order to boost trade and investment activity in both countries and invitation to Saudi investors to invest in hydropower projects.
They also explored the possibility of entering into industrial cooperation including joint ventures in agriculture, light and heavy industry and petroleum sector. Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia to uplift this important sector of economy was discussed.