ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said focus of Dr Mohamad’s visit was on enhancing economic, trade, investment and defence. The visit, he added, would improve the brotherly and friendly relations between the two countries.
The visit largely aimed at enhancing business-to-business contacts and using them for Pakistan’s outreach to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Razak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, told a press conference in Islamabad.
During the visit, he said, businessmen from the two countries would sign $800 million worth of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in the areas of “telecommunication, technology, automobiles and halal food”.
Dawood said Pakistan wanted to increase its outreach to the far-eastern countries through Malaysia, because the country looked to change its ‘China-centric’ economic policies. “We believe Malaysia will be an opening for us to the ASEAN countries,” he said.
Dawood, who had been critical of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in past, told a press conference hours before arrival of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the time had come for Pakistan to look towards other Asian nations.
“Pakistan was China-centric during past five years and there was China, China and China in everything,” Dawood said, adding that China had helped Pakistan address bottlenecks in power and infrastructure sectors but “we have to learn how to keep relations with other countries as well.” He, however, acknowledged that Pakistan hugely benefited from the Chinese investment.
Dawood said that Pakistan wanted to use connections of the Malaysian businessmen to get access to ASEAN. In return, the adviser said, Malaysia would get access to the Central Asian states via Pakistan. “Our policy is to reach out to Far East Asia through Malaysia,” he added.
ASEAN is a market of 651 million people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $3 trillion and a high human capital development index, according to the Board of Investment.
Statistics of State Bank of Pakistan showed that Pakistan received $1.6 billion foreign direct investment (FDI) during July-February period of the current fiscal year and 55% of it came only from China alone.
Dawood said that there was a hope that CPEC would supplement the FDI in Pakistan but due to a preferential treatment given to the Chinese investors, the investment from other countries declined massively in the past five years.