Focus on trade and visa as Pak hosts meeting of D-8

The PTA is yet to be ratified by Egypt and Bangladesh while the visa pact is still to be ratified by Egypt and Indonesia, Khan told a news conference in Islamabad this evening.

Islamabad: Pakistan will press for a speedy ratification of a preferential trade agreement (PTA) and a visa pact for businessmen at a meeting of trade organisations of the Developing Eight (D-8) countries set to begin here on Monday.

Both the PTA and the visa agreement have been ratified by six members of the D-8 so far and discussions at the first meeting of heads of trade promotion organisations of the D-8 will focus on measures to implement the two pacts, said Mujeeb Ahmed Khan, head of the WTO cell of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.

The PTA is yet to be ratified by Egypt and Bangladesh while the visa pact is still to be ratified by Egypt and Indonesia, Khan told a news conference in Islamabad this evening.

The four-day trade meet, which is being held ahead of a summit meeting of the D-8, will focus on areas with potential for development, including engineering products and services, leather goods, textiles and halal products, said Abdul Kabir Kazi, Secretary of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.

The trade meet will also adopt a formal declaration that will be presented to the heads of state participating in the summit meeting beginning on November 22, the officials said.

However, Pakistan's efforts to position itself as a key regional player by hosting the D-8 Summit has been affected by the decision of the premiers of Bangladesh and Malaysia not to attend the meet.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has informed the Pakistan government that she will not participate in the key summit, media reports said on Sunday.

Earlier reports had suggested that Bangladesh would be represented by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni but even her attendance seems unlikely now.

Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes, one of the advisers to the Bangladeshi premier, will now represent the country at the summit.

Ties between Islamabad and Dhaka were strained when Bangladesh reportedly handed over a list of demands to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar during her recent visit to that country.

The demands reportedly include putting on trial former military and political personalities involved in military actions during the 1971 war.

Bangladesh has also sought an official apology from Pakistan for its actions during the same war.
Pakistan has said it regretted the incidents in the past and that it was time for the two countries to "move forward".

The reasons for the Malaysian premier's decision not to attend the summit could not immediately be ascertained.

The Malaysian deputy premier is now expected to represent the country at the meet.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will inaugurate the trade meet tomorrow, kicking off a series of events that will culminate in the eighth D-8 Summit on November 22.

Besides Pakistan, the other members of D-8 are Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Turkey, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

President Asif Ali Zardari will inaugurate and chair the D-8 Summit that will focus on the theme "Democratic partnership for peace and prosperity".

Among those who are expected to participate in the summit are Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that the timing of the summit is significant as a democratically elected government in Pakistan is set to complete its five-year term for the first time in the country's history.

The "continuation of democracy" will enable Pakistan to forge durable and mutually beneficial partnerships in international relations, including with the D-8, it said.