ISLAMABAD  - Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar has said that Pakistan is fully committed to further enhancing and strengthening relations with Italy in existing and new areas including defence, economic cooperation, trade and investment. 

He made these remarks during a meeting with visiting Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Benedetto Della Vedova. Dar welcomed the Italian deputy minister and members of the accompanying delegation. He highlighted the historic and long-standing friendly ties between Pakistan and Italy. He acknowledged the volume of bilateral trade between the two nations but emphasized that trade potential is much bigger than the current level. He appreciated the cooperation and support of the Italian government for various development projects in Pakistan. 

The Italian deputy minister recalled Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s visit to Pakistan last year, as well as the visits by the Italian Minister for Defence, and the Italian Deputy Minister for Economic Development along with a delegation of Italian businesspersons. He said that the recent increase in high-level interaction between the two countries bodes well for relations between the two nations. 

He said that bilateral trade figures are improving but there is a huge untapped potential for further increase in bilateral trade. He emphasized that Italy and the EU are fully committed to keeping international markets open for trade at the highest level. He said that the Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo is making active efforts to promote foreign direct investment by Italian companies in Pakistan in various areas including energy, infrastructure and machinery. 

Dar shared with the Italian deputy minister that after having achieved macroeconomic stability in Pakistan, the government is now focused on attaining higher, sustainable and inclusive economic growth. He said that during the tenure of the present government, despite curtailing fiscal deficit by more than half, development spending has been more than doubled and spending on social sector has been nearly tripled. He also apprised the deputy minister of the merger of Pakistan’s domestic stock exchanges last year.  

He said that in June last year the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) was declared the best market in Asia, and in December, KSE-100 was declared the 5thbest performing stock index globally in 2016. 

Dar said that the government of Pakistan has submitted the letter of intent for joining the Open Government Partnership (OGP), after having become a signatory to the OECD Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. He said that the government is fully committed to ensuring transparency and adoption of international standards of governance. 

The Italian deputy minister appreciated Pakistan’s commitment to join OGP and accession to the OECD Convention. He said that Pakistan’s partnership with the OECD, including accession to its conventions, is an important step as OECD maintains shared statistics which facilitate international trade and investments. 

Senior officials of the Ministry of Finance, members of the visiting delegation and officials of the Italian