NAYPYIDAW (Myanmar) (APP) - President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday called for enhancing two-way trade between Pakistan and Myanmar and emphasised on a preferential tariff arrangement (PTA) leading to the culmination of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

Zardari also emphasised establishment of a joint ministerial commission mandated to promote economic and trade cooperation between the two countries as well as cooperation in the oil and gas sector. He also offered to send minister for petroleum and natural resources to Myanmar for exploring prospects of meaningful cooperation.

The president made this call during meeting with the Myanmar President U Thein Sein soon after his arrival in the capital Tuesday afternoon. Spoke-sperson Farhatullah Babar said that the president also called for consultations between the respective central banks to study prospects of establishing a currency swap arrangement for closer economic and trade cooperation. Further, the president called for greater interaction between the chambers of commerce and offered to send a trade delegation of businessmen and traders to Myanmar.

“Hopefully, closer interaction between our respective trade bodies would lead to the establishment of a joint business council,” the President said.

Pakistan and Myanmar have modest trade relations. Two-way trade between the two countries stood at $ 24 million in 2009-2010.

The spokesperson said that the president also offered to share Pakistan’s experience with Myanmar in poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

He said that Pakistan had introduced the Benazir Income Support Programme which proved very successful and had been lauded by the international community.

“We would be happy to invite your ministers and officials to visit Pakistan to study this programme which aims at using the smart card technology for women empowerment and poverty alleviation”, the president said.

To provide a long term basis for Pakistan-Myanmar cooperation president Zardari offered to his counterpart educational and training facilities for Myanmar youth in the medical, engineering and business colleges in Pakistan. Besides he also invited Myanmar diplomats to attend courses at the Foreign Service Academy in Pakistan.

Farhatullah Babar said the president emphasised regular high level contacts “to impart new dynamism to our bilateral relations” and extended an invitation to Myanmar president to visit Pakistan.

 “Besides Parliamentary exchanges, we should also establish regular consultations between our respective foreign ministries,” the president further said.

Recalling the rich Gandhara heritage as a centre of Buddhist learning in the past the president invited Buddhist devotees to visit ancient and archaeological sites in Pakistan.

President Zardari said that Pakistan was keen to promote closer cooperation with all ASEAN countries and looked forward to full dialogue partnership with it and thanked Myanmar for its valuable support to Pakistan in this regard.

Expressing delight that Myanmar will assume the chairmanship of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014, the president expressed the hope that it will see the culmination of Pakistan’s quest for closer and more effective institutional relationship with ASEAN.

Pakistan side comprised spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Myanmar Khalilullah Qazi, Additional Secretary, Dr Asad Majeed, special assignee Hasham Riaz Sheikh and other senior officials.

The Myanmar side was represented by ministers for information, industries, national planning and economic development, commerce, education, health, minister for president’s office and other high officials.

“It is important to develop direct air and sea links. I suggest our concerned departments to discuss steps required to enhance connectivity,” the president said.

President Zardari said that Pakistan was delighted that Myanmar was taking important steps towards political and economic reforms and expressed the hope that it will succeed.

The president also thanked the Myanmar President for assistance to the flood affected people in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011.

Earlier on arrival, the President was received at the airport by Union Minister for Health, Dr Pe Thet Khin, Union Minister for Education and Minister-in-Attendance Dr Mya Aye.

The President of Myanmar also hosted banquet in the honour of President Zardari which was also attended by Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Ms Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and other members of the delegation.