ISLAMABAD - Asking the Korean companies to benefit from the lucrative and conducive economic conditions in Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has proposed a number of incentives, including free trade agreement (FTA) and joint business forum (JBF) to bolster the bilateral trade which had already reached US $ 1.6 billion.

Republic of Korea Prime Minister Chung Hongwon, along with a high-level delegation, met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday at the PM House. Korean Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Song Jong-hwan, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Cho Taeyul, Vice Minister for Trade and Energy Han Jinhyun from Korean side and Minister for Commerce Engineer Khurram Dastgir, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal, Adviser to PM on National Security Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi from the Pakistan side attended the meeting.

The PM said, “Pakistan is happy to witness the progress and development of the Republic of Korea and we are interested in learning from Korean experience. The two governments must promote interaction and cooperation between their private sectors and regular interaction with respective boards of investment and chambers of commerce and industry.”

While discussing the economic prospects, PM Nawaz Sharif said it was heartening to note that trade between the two countries reached US$ 1.6 billion in 2012. Pakistan had proposed a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) that covers trade, investment and services so that trade between the two countries could be further enhanced, the PM added.

Nawaz Sharif appreciated the Joint Business Forum organised by KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency) and Board of Investment, Pakistan, expressing the hope that as an outcome of the Joint Business Forum, the Korean companies would be engaged in energy, infrastructure development, railways and telecommunication sectors.

The PM underlined the need of preparing a country partnership strategy between the two countries for the next three years. “The Lahore-Islamabad Motorway bears testimony to the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries and we want to enhance such cooperation in other fields as well,” added Nawaz Sharif.

The PM said Pakistan had offered huge opportunities to the Korean business companies in energy generation, including hydel, wind, solar, biomass and coal, and Islamabad would appreciate if Korean companies participated in initiatives such as Gaddani Power Park and Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park.

The PM said construction of offshore and on-shore LNG terminals also offered investment opportunities to Korean companies and Pakistan would welcome and facilitate Korean capital and technology in these sectors.

Nawaz said the Free Economic Zone along the China-Pak Economic Corridor had also offered investment opportunities to Korean investors. “In this economic zone, Korean SMEs can establish joint ventures in the manufacturing sector to cater to a large and growing domestic market as well as Korean and regional markets,” the PM noted. The PM invited Korean financial institutions to start their operations in Pakistan, adding a branch of Korean bank in Pakistan would boost business between the two countries.

Cooperation in science & technology, bioengineering, information technology, exchange of human resources and other areas of common interests with Korea were also discussed. The PM thanked the Korean government for looking after 900 Pakistani students and expressed the hope for increasing further scholarships being offered to Pakistani students.

The Korean prime minister thanked Nawaz Sharif and the government and people of Pakistan for extending warm welcome to him during his visit. Chung Hongwon said Pakistan and Korea should expand their trade, economy and energy sectors and enhance bilateral relations by increasing personnel exchanges in the private sector. Views were also exchanged on regional and international issues.

Earlier, the two prime ministers witnessed the signing of MoUs between Pakistan and Korea on trade, industry and energy. The MoUs were signed by Commerce Secretary Muhammad Shahzad Arbab from Pakistani side and Vice Minister for Trade and Energy Han Jinhun from the Korean side.

Before the delegation-level talks, the two PMs held a one-on-one meeting. While welcoming the Korean PM, Nawaz Sharif said, “We are very happy to receive you as the first ever Korean prime minister to visit Pakistan since the establishment of our diplomatic relations 31 years ago. It is my government’s resolve to strengthen and expand relations with the Republic of Korea in all fields, added the PM. Nawaz said the traditional cordial relations between the two countries needed to be transformed in a substantive partnership in trade, investment, energy and infrastructure. Later, the PM hosted a lunch in honour of the visiting delegation.