Pakistan and France Enduring ties of Friendship
An era of renewed bilateral relations between Pakistan and France will open when the proposed establishment of a Joint Business Council takes a concrete shape. A statement issued by the leaders of both countries when they met recently, pointed to the promotion of business sector cooperation and elimination of non-tariff barriers in addition to prevention and settlement of any trade disputes that may arise in the process. The MoU signed between Medef International, France and Pakistan Business Council is a major step towards developing institutional linkages between the business bodies of the two countries.
In the wake of natural disasters and economic crises, the current economic conditions in Pakistan demand focused efforts in the basic areas of health, education and construction. France is home to many industrial units and companies with a world class reputation. The French government has adopted a promising stance towards helping Pakistan improve its economic, financial and social outlook.
With already 400 French companies exporting goods and services to Pakistan and around 39 having set up their operations in the country, bilateral trade with France shot up to $744.57 million in 2010. Trade harmony between both countries is a result of an important agreement signed in 1983 for the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments, as pointed out by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Simultaneously, French Minister for Finance and Economy, Christine Lagarde considers investment in the sectors of energy (electric power and fossil fuels), environment (water treatment facilities) and infrastructure (dams, roads and motorways) as highly significant.
There are still other areas such as telecommunication, luxury goods, transport, aerospace and large scale retail, where the strength of France’s investment capabilities is proving to be a major success. Subsidiaries of leading French multinationals in Pakistan relate to strong investment and also production through their manufacturing units operational in the country. Rhone-Poulenc and Roussel-Uclaf in the pharmaceutical sector, Carrefour in the retail sector, Group Danone in agro business, Alcatel in the telecommunications and other names such as Credit Agricole Indosuez and the Societe Generale have been strengthening the Pakistani economy for decades.
Relations between Pakistan and France are indeed multifaceted. Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh has rightly referred to cooperation in the areas of education, arts and culture in this regard. With nearly about 50,000 Pakistanis living and actively participating in the cultural life of France, the two countries are deeply involved in scholarship and cultural exchange programs. The four major cities of Pakistan, Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar already have Alliance Française centres dedicated to the dissemination of French culture and language. Along with humanitarian assistance from France for flood victims, France has actively participated in the meetings of Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) to support the economy of Pakistan.
Moreover, on the defence front, recent negotiations between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with the French Defence Minister Longuet have furthered military cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the two countries. At present, Pakistan Air Force operates one of the world’s largest fleets of Mirage III and IV jet fighters, while the Pakistan Navy has in its fleet three Agosta 90 class submarines.
The government of Pakistan is thoroughly engaged in a national reform agenda to ensure fair and equitable mobilization of resources while enabling international competitiveness of its industries. The government is also focused on attracting investment to Pakistan from international sources. As such, the sharing of common approaches on trade, investment and security between the economies of Pakistan and France is the key factor contributing to an enduring friendship