May 25, 2014
Imran Ali Kundi
ISLAMABAD – Dutch Minister for Trade and Development, Mrs Lilianne Ploumen on Saturday said that Pakistan-Netherlands relationship is moving from aid to trade and both the countries agreed to increase the bilateral trade volume.
“With my visit I wanted to strengthen the bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Pakistan and also mark its transition: from aid to trade”, said Mrs. Lilianne Ploumen while addressing a press conference here after completing her 60-hours visit to Pakistan.
Apart from giving details of her visit, the Dutch Minister for Trade and Development said that Pakistan is a dangerous country for journalism following the recent attacks on many journalists. She appreciated the government of Pakistan’s efforts for eradicating polio from the country.
Mrs Lilianne Ploumen informed that she met with different government officials of Pakistan during her visit and discussed bilateral trade. Earlier in the visit the Minister had meetings with the special adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, Minister of Commerce, Khurram Dastgir-Khan and Minister of Planning & Development, Ahsan Iqbal.
She informed that a Dutch Disaster Reduction Team would visit Pakistan soon to assist the country in facing the challenges of impacts of climate change, efficient use of water in agriculture, reduction of silt and in other relevant fields. She further informed that she has exchanged views on a broad range of issues, including polio eradication, the legal framework for NGOs to operate, and the need for Pakistan to continue to make progress on the benchmarks for GSP+. The Netherlands would continue to support efforts in the area of peace, security and stability, political dialogue, the promotion of human rights, and people-to-people contacts through scholarships and tailor-made trainings, she added. The visiting Minister Ploumen has also focused on the textile sector, the most important source of exports from Pakistan to the Netherlands. The Minister visited Kohinoor Textile Mills, one of the leading textile companies in Pakistan, and spoke at a roundtable on “The Pakistani Textile Sector in the International Arena”.
This roundtable, convened by International Labour Organization and the Embassy of the Netherlands, was attended by the Minister for Textile Industry, Abbas Khan Afridi, Minister for Labour& Human Resource Punjab, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar as well as key stakeholders from the government, international partners, industry, employers and workers representatives. At this forum the Minister stressed that: “The Netherlands is a free trade nation. But free trade is not free. The production of trade products needs to be in compliance with labour standards, human rights and environmental standards.
Labour conditions are very important to consumers and companies in Europe.” She also underlined the Dutch commitment to work with Pakistan to improve labour conditions in the textile production chain and to ensure continued market access of Pakistani products to the Netherlands.
Meanwhile the official handout released by the Netherlands embassy stated as, “Although the Netherlands is phasing out bilateral development programs, our commitment to Pakistan remains firm. In 2013 the Netherlands government still contributed more than 28 million Euros directly to currently running development projects in Pakistan. Besides that there are many Dutch international NGO’s involved in development activities.”
Earlier in the day the Minister met with the country representatives of Dutch companies based in Pakistan.
Shell, Unilever, Philips, AkzoNobel and Stork SPG-prints were invited to discuss opportunities and challenges in the business climate of Pakistan. The Minister also attended a round table on reproductive health and rights where there were fruitful discussions with parliamentarians, government representatives and civil society. In addition, Minister Ploumen had a meeting on the critical issue of food security, an important challenge for Pakistan where expertise and inputs from the Netherlands (the 2nd largest exporter of agricultural products in the world) are much needed.