ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday stressed the need for boosting trade ties with Germany.

He was talking to German Foreign Minister Dr Frank Walter Steinmeier at PM House. The premier told the German FM about Pakistan’s economic growth. The visiting minister thanked the prime minister for warm welcome to Pakistan.

The prime minister recalled his visit to Germany in November last and his meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said that he directed his government to follow the mutually agreed areas of cooperation discussed in that visit particularly bilateral trade and investment. The meeting discussed matters relating to bilateral and regional interests with particular focus on peace and stability in the region.

The German foreign minister said that relations between the two countries are improving and cooperation in the economic field and other sectors will further make relations closer between the two countries. PM Nawaz Sharif thanked Germany for supporting Pakistan for GSP Plus status given by European Union (EU). Sartaj Aziz Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs also attended the meeting.

The German FM and Sartaj also held a joint press conference in which the latter said they had concluded a "very productive meeting" and their consultations encompassed bilateral relations as well as an exchange of views on regional and global issues, specially the situation in Afghanistan and the stalemate in Pakistan-India dialogue process.

He said Germany occupied a special place in Pakistan's foreign policy. "We enjoy traditionally warm and friendly relations. For several years now, Germany has been one of Pakistan's largest trading partner globally and the largest in Europe. Our current trade volume is approaching $3 billion annually, but has the potential of increasing exponentially," the Foreign Adviser said.

He said Pakistan would welcome German investments in various sectors of its economy, especially in engineering and renewable energy.

Sartaj said they also discussed the continuing and emerging challenges that must be addressed through sustained and well-coordinated policies and actions.

He said Pakistan believed in having good relation with all its neighbours on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect. Development and prosperity of the region and its people would remain elusive without peace and inter-connectivity, he added. "I am confident that future hold great promise for further strengthening of our bilateral relations and Pakistan looks forward to welcoming German Chancellor Merkel to Pakistan at an early date," he added.

To a question about the German reservations on the death penalty to criminals, he said Pakistan was still facing tough situation due to terrorism.

To a question, he said historically, Germany had been opposed to death penalty and also asked the United Nations to ban the capital punishment globally. However, he said Pakistan has different opinion on the issue, owing to the prevailing situation in the country.

In his remarks, the visiting FM said Germany attached great importance to its ties with Pakistan and thousands of the students studying in Germany contributed to further strengthening these ties. He lauded Pakistan's effort to improve the national economy.

About Pakistan-India dialogue process, he said Jammu and Kashmir was a pressing issue between Pakistan and India it was important for both the countries to return to talks.

The German foreign minister also visited GHQ and called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif. According to ISPR, matters of mutual interest sincluding security situation in the region were discussed during the meeting.