LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that holding of a seminar by the European Union countries regarding new trade and investment opportunities in Punjab is a welcome step and would open up new avenues of trade and investment between Pakistan and European countries. He thanked European Union countries for their support for granting GSP Plus status to Pakistan and said that it will result in increase in textile and garments production as well as prospects of investment in other sectors as well.

He was addressing a seminar on the topic of European Union- Pakistan—New Opportunities of Trade and Investment, at a local hotel, here. Ambassador of European Union Lars Gunnar Wigermark, Deputy Head of the delegation of European Union Pierr Mayadon, Ambassadors of member countries of European Union, industrialists, young entrepreneurs and concerned authorities were present on the occasion.

The Chief Minister said that Punjab government has evolved a plan to set up garments zone over 1300 acres of land and the funds required for acquisition of land have been provided. He said that this project is of a vital importance in the wake of the granting of GSP Plus status to Pakistan. He said that steps are being taken expeditiously for the promotion of cooperation with Germany and other countries in energy sector while progress has been made with China for setting up of coal-based power plants. He said that Germany and other European countries can promote cooperation in the projects of generation of power from hydle, solar and biomass. He said that Punjab government is successfully running Skills Development Programme with the cooperation of DFID and its scope is being extended to the whole province.

He said that besides economic reforms, the government has also taken tough decisions as it wants trade and not aid from the comity of nations including European Union. He said that Pakistan is also facing the challenge of extremism and terrorism besides energy crisis and he believes that progress cannot be made without rooting out this scourge. He said that extremism cannot be defeated with a bullet of a gun alone and steps are needed for improvement of education, health and other social sectors to overcome this problem. He said that the granting of GSP Plus status will result in substantial increase in the exports of the country as well as generation of job opportunities.

Ambassador of the European Union, Lars Gunnar Wigermark said that European countries are serious in trade and investment with Pakistan and after the granting of GSP Plus status in January 2014, Pakistani products will have duty free access to European market due to which trade will further increase. He said that present government has made timely economic reforms due to which the economy will improve. The Ambassador of European Union also presented a shield to Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday had meetings with Ambassador of Republic of Hungary, Istvan Szabo, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, MNAs Syed Javed Ali Shah, Muhammad Moin Wattoo, Mian Muhammad Farooq and Syed Muhammad Asghar.

During meeting with Isttvan Szabo, matters of mutual interest and promotion of bilateral relations as well as cooperation in energy and other sectors came under discussion.

During talks with the Hungarian Ambassador, Chief Minister highlighted the need for promoting trade relations between Hungary and Pakistan particularly in the sectors of energy, steel, automobile and tourism. He said that Punjab government is working on a massive project of water supply and Hungary should consider cooperation in this project for which the provincial government has created conducive environment.

Ambassador of Hungary said that Pakistan is of great importance to his country and wants to enhance mutual cooperation. He said that mutual contacts between the chambers of two countries should be increased and the exchange of trade delegations can help promote trade relations.

In a separate meeting, the Federal Minster and the MNAs apprised the Chief Minister of the pace of implementation of development projects in their respective areas. The Chief Minister asked the Members of the Assembly to keep a close contact with the people and spare no effort to solve their problems. He also directed elected representatives to personally monitor prices of essential commodities in the bazaars and markets of their respective areas and point out hoarders and profiteers so that strict legal action could be taken against them.