Welcome Remarks by H.E. Mr. Sartaj Aziz Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs at the16th Session of the D-8 Council of Ministers Islamabad, 19 December 2013
Hon’ble Ministers of Foreign Affairs
Distinguished Heads of Delegation
Hon’ble Secretary General of the D-8 Seyed Mousavi
Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen
It is an honour and matter of great happiness for me and the Government of Pakistan to warmly welcome your Excellencies to Islamabad to attend the 16th Session of the D-8 Council of Ministers. I am particularly grateful to the Hon’ble Ministers for their personal participation in this meeting. This indeed reflects your deep sincerity and resolve to develop the D-8 Organization into a useful forum for substantive cooperation. Your presence here also manifests your brotherly gesture to respond to our invitation.
I wish to express my gratitude to Secretary General Seyed Ali Mohammad Mousavi and his team for assisting us in organizing the D-8 meetings in Islamabad and also to D-8 Commissioners who have so diligently deliberated on important issues during the past two days.
In the last ministerial meeting held in Islamabad in November 2012 on the occasion of the Eighth D-8 Summit we were able to the adopt key documents for this organization including D-8 Charter and Global Vision for the future, in addition to Islamabad Declaration.
Since then the economic challenges in the world have become more daunting. Accordingly, the imperative to enhance utility of the organizations like the D-8 has also become more pressing and critical than ever.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
As the D-8 turns sixteen, it is my firm belief that it is now confidently poised to take on the economic, business and commercial challenges of our times. In its second life cycle, the D-8 is expected to evolve into a forum of practical cooperation among the Member States. Greater responsibility now rests on our shoulders to achieve this objective. We have valuable lessons to learn from the first fifteen years of D-8’s existence. These lessons can show us the way forward.
While the issue of adequate resources to run this organization is under discussion, we need to install mechanisms of monitoring of progress in achieving agreed goals according to certain timelines. I am happy that the proposal to establish a Group of Eminent Persons for this purpose will be before the Council.
Even without waiting for such mechanisms to be established, we can go ahead in implementing the D-8 agreements related to trade and business, specially the Preferential Trade Agreement. The operationalization of this instrument will be the first concrete and important step towards achieving the prime objectives of this organization.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
As we are working to grant business preferences and reliefs in customs matters, our government has already installed one of world’s most liberal and business-friendly environment in the country. There are several sectors in the energy, agriculture and agro-based industries, mineral development, transport and engineering sectors which are only waiting to be invested in by the businessmen from your countries. May I take this opportunity to invite the businessmen and investors from your countries to avail of the enormous business opportunities in Pakistan.
A great opportunity lies for combining our skilled and unskilled labour with foreign direct investment from your countries that will help businesses of your countries grow faster and more efficiently. Our government is keen to facilitate business-to-business links and public-private partnerships.
We are working on a medium term vision 2025 roadmap to transform Pakistan’s economy and address our problem of energy shortage and lead to sustained economic revival and provide better services to people through institutional reforms. We also plan to integrate the region through trade and economic corridors into one large market. With population of 190 million having a large youth segment, the potential for progress is enormous.
Although security has been a challenge, the government is taking decisive actions to restore peace across the country. Many international companies have already begun to take interest by signing agreements for investment in energy, agriculture, IT and telecommunication, textile. May I add that investment in Special Economic Zones also offers good options for investors.
We believe that D-8 has the potential to become a vehicle for economic development for the D-8 family. We in Islamabad are conscious of the fact that our national economic agenda will be greatly facilitated if we collectively work on the economic development agenda of the D-8. It is, therefore, time that we pool in our resources and synergies, and collaborate by mutually benefitting from our comparative advantages and common strengths.
The opportunity is now to accord priorities and all possible facilitation to the businessmen and investors from D-8 countries with the help of the framework agreements so that our private sectors can interact regularly without any administrative bottlenecks. I am sure we are ready to transform our political will and strong commitments into concrete actions. No less than this can help us achieve the intera D-8 trade target of US $ 500 billion by the year 2018.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Perhaps we are now at a stage where we can do some stocktaking. We have yet to demonstrate to over one billion people in our countries that we are now entering a phase which will usher in development and prosperity for them. We have yet to create permanent mechanisms in our respective governments which generate and sustain the cooperation process. Likewise, there is a need now to take on board the businessmen and entrepreneurs in our countries in order to forge trade and business linkages.
As the Chair and active member of the organization, we will continue to contribute towards making the work of the D-8 more result-oriented with the cooperative spirit that guides this Organization. I believe that our collective will to overcome the socio-economic challenges is stronger and we can surmount these challenges and achieve desired results for the development of our countries and people.
I would once again like to extend my most sincere thanks to the Hon’ble Ministers and senior officials of the D-8 Member States for attending this meeting with a view to make it another success and important milestone.
I thank you and hope you have a most pleasant stay in Pakistan.