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July 04 2003

France, Pakistan agree to boost economic ties

PARIS: President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday held useful discussion with French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on all matters of international and regional importance. In a cordial and friendly manner, they discussed modalities of implementing the decisions taken on Wednesday during President Musharraf's prolonged meeting with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac.

The president informed the French prime minister about his country's role in Afghanistan and latest developments taking place in the South Asian region with a focus on Indo-Pakistan relations, including efforts being made by the two sides to start parleys to find solution of all outstanding issues. APP adds: President Musharraf and Prime Minister Raffarin told media after the hour-long meeting that the two countries have agreed to identify areas of enhancing bilateral trade and economic cooperation. They would work together to strengthen and deepen the bilateral ties, they said. The two leaders said their meeting took up a host of regional and international issues of common interest to both countries but the meeting mainly focused on enhancing trade and economic relationship.

Musharraf said he briefed the French leader about the conducive investment climate and the vast business opportunities existing in Pakistan. The two leaders also discussed the renewal of financial assistance to Pakistan for improvement in social sector. "The French prime minister was gracious enough to suggest that we should identify specific areas of investment in Pakistan through governmental as well as private-sector interaction," Musharraf said. Replying to a question, the French prime minister said during the meeting they referred to the tragic incident of last year in Karachi in which French naval engineers lost their lives. He said, "I thanked the president for the assistance extended by Pakistan to France in these difficult times." He said: "We agreed that development is clearly the only way in which we can fight terrorism, so economic, social and educational development is the way to fight terrorism." In response to a question, Musharraf told journalists democracy is very much functioning in Pakistan.

Raffarin said Paris agrees that the way forward is focusing on areas of economic cooperation. Musharraf said Pakistan believes that Iraq's territorial integrity must be maintained. "Iraq's territorial integrity must be ensured and it must be governed by the people of Iraq as soon as possible so that stability can return." Meanwhile, addressing editors of economic and financial newspapers and representatives of the electronic media at a breakfast meeting, President Musharraf said Pakistan, with its consistent policies, skilled manpower and growing economic strength, offered a most business-friendly climate to foreign investors. The president said with the growing economic strength, inexpensive skilled manpower and lower interest rates, the cost of doing business in Pakistan was the lowest in the region. "Foreign investors now can have 100 per cent equity in Pakistan," he added. The president recalled the efforts by the government to crack down on extremist elements and those involved in terrorist activities in the country. The law and order and security conditions in Pakistan were stable and offered the most conducive environment for business and investment, the president said.

Speaking at a business and investment conference on Pakistan, meanwhile, Musharraf urged French investors to utilise immense investment opportunities in Pakistan and gave them an overview of encouraging economic indicators which was described by top French businessmen as impressive.

The president gave a detailed presentation to top notches of France in the presence of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, whom he described as a true friend of Pakistan. Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz and Privatisation Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh were also present on the occasion. The event was organised by the MEDEF, an organisation representing all large and small business organisations of France, and the Pakistan-France Business Alliance.

"I see Pakistan as a hub of all economic, commercial and trade activities in this whole region," he said. Prince Karim Aga Khan said the Aga Khan networks had been active in Pakistan in education, health and social fields. He welcomed the economic progress of Pakistan and modernisation of its economy. Aga Khan appreciated efforts of the president to project his country as a tolerant and moderate Pakistan.