Regional connectivity vital to unleash trade, tourism potential: Bakhtiar

ISLAMABAD: Economic Affairs Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar has stressed the importance of regional connectivity to unleash the country’s trade and tourism potential.

The minister expressed these views while participating in the 19th Ministerial Conference of Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) held virtually on Monday.

Bakhtiar said that forums such as CAREC are important for Pakistan to achieve shared goals of sustainable development and economic growth. Endorsing the framework, he emphasised, “By setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) targets along with active monitoring and annual reporting, we can effectively monitor the progress leading to implementation of CAREC’s Vision 2030.”

The minister maintained that tourism is part of the national development policy of the government and that this sector contained immense untapped potential. He recommended the development of a regional tourism corridor, establishment of CAREC Business Council and increased involvement of the private sector for promotion of tourism.

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Bakhtiar said that the incumbent government was focusing on facilitating the private sector for increased investment. He also suggested an enhanced visa facilitation regime in the form of “CAREC Sticker” for certain categories within the region.

“In order to expand trade among CAREC countries, transit trade agreements among member countries leading to the regional free trade agreement (RFTA) may be considered.”

He endorsed long-term CAREC strategies to promote regional tourism and gender mainstreaming, and suggested the CAREC institute to conduct comprehensive studies identifying underlying gaps and including roadmaps on mutually beneficial topics.

“Pakistan attaches high importance to CAREC as it is aligned with our national priorities of regional integration and cooperation,” the minister stated.

CAREC Programme is a partnership of 11 countries and six development partners working together to promote development through cooperation, leading to accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction. It is guided by the overarching vision of “good neighbours, good partners, and good prospects.”

Ministers and senior representatives of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also addressed the conference.

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