EU foreign policy chief to visit Pakistan

Baroness Catherine Ashton will visit Islamabad during June 4-6 to launch the Pakistan- European Union Strategic Dialogue.

Islamabad: Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will visit Islamabad during June 4-6 to launch the Pakistan- European Union Strategic Dialogue.

The Strategic Dialogue is being launched in line with a decision made at the first Pakistan-EU Summit held in 2009.

The dialogue will provide modalities to implement the Pakistan-EU five-year engagement plan finalised in January.

The Pakistani side at the talks will be led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
Ashton`s visit will further enhance relations between the EU and Pakistan and the Strategic Dialogue will provide the two Foreign Ministers an opportunity to identify ways to further raise cooperation and discuss regional and international issues, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The visit by Ashton, who is also Vice President of the European Commission, will also provide an opportunity to reiterate Pakistan`s interest for inclusion in the GSP+ and early implementation of the package of Autonomous Trade Preferences for Pakistan, Pakistan attaches "great importance to its relations with the EU and enjoys excellent relations with all EU member countries", the statement said.

The EU is Pakistan`s single largest trading partner, accounting for 25 per cent of its total exports and 11 per cent of total imports.

Trade between Pakistan and the US stood at USD 10.56 billion last year, with exports at USD 6.18 billion and imports at USD 4.38 billion. Investment from the EU during 2010-11 was over 230 million dollars.

The EU and Pakistan last year signed a multi-year indicative programme for 2011-2013. Under this, the EU will provide 225 million Euros for rural development, education, health and governance.

Ashton will call on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and visit Lahore, where she will call on the Punjab Governor.