Pakistan and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday launched ‘Strategic Dialogue’ aimed at promoting trade ties and expanding in other areas, officials said.
Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is leading the 27-member EU block in talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar of Pakistan .
“The Strategic Dialogue will provide the two Foreign Ministers an opportunity to identify ways and means to further raise the level of bilateral cooperation and discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest,” the Foreign Ministry said on the eve of the talks.
The Strategic Dialogue is being launched in pursuance of the decision taken at the First Pakistan-EU Summit held in 2009. The Dialogue provides for modalities to implement the Pakistan-EU Five-Year Engagement Plan concluded in January 2012.
The EU is Pakistan’s single largest trading partner accounting for 25 per cent of our total exports and 11 per cent of total imports.
Bilateral Trade in 2011 stands at $10.56 billion, with exports at 6.18 billion US dollars and imports at $4.38 billion. Investment from the EU during 2010-11 was to the tune of over $230 million.
The EU and Pakistan signed last year a Multi-year Indicative Programme (MIP) for 2011-2013. Under the MIP, the EU would provide 225 million Euros for rural development, education, health and governance, the Foreign Ministry said.
Baroness Ashton’s visit will provide an opportunity to reiterate Pakistan ‘s interest for inclusion in the GSP” and early implementation of the package of Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATPs) for Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said.
Ahead of the visit, Catherine Ashton said: “The launch of the Strategic Dialogue and the Engagement Plan are a chance to strengthen relations, building on the full range of EU-Pakistan cooperation, from foreign and security policy to development and trade”.
“We want to deepen our collaboration in many areas, including judicial reform, strengthening the democratic institutions but also work jointly on promoting regional stability and tackling extremism and terrorism,” she said in a statement posted on the EU website.
She will also hold high-level meetings during her three-day stay in Pakistan including a call on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Waheed Arshad, leaders of the parliamentary opposition. She will also visit Lahore on Wednesday and will meet the Governor of Punjab, Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa.