Visit of President Zardari in Paris, APP interview of the French Ambassador [fr]
Anticipating the visit of President Zardari in Paris, APP interviewed the French Ambassador in pakistan, H.E. Mr. Philippe Thiebaud. Published on 9.12.12.
Article published by APP on the 9/12/12.
Bilateral ties between Pakistan and France increasing, President Zardari’s visit to further strength
By Fayyaz Chaudhry
PARIS, Dec. 9 (APP): French ambassador to Pakistan Philippe Thiebaud, welcoming visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to France starting on Sunday, said it will further promote the bilateral ties and it is an important symbol of friendship and cooperation that has been nurtured throughout the history of relations between the two countries.
In an interview with APP, the French ambassador said, France and Pakistan are long lasting partners and have developed, since 1947, a multifaceted bilateral relationship. He said the high level of cooperation is exemplified by the numerous forums for collaborations that have expanded over the years.
He said the bilateral relationship at the institutional level is taking the form of parliamentarian friendship groups, joint business forums with participation from more than 180 companies, and political and economic commissions.
He said regular meetings are organized between the representatives of the political and economic entities from both countries and the dialogue is on-going.
At the highest level, he said, President Zardari and then Prime Minister Gilani both visited France in recent years.
The French ambassador said, the Pakistan Zardari will meet both the French President and the Prime Minister of France during this visit to Paris.
Replying to a question on economic cooperation, the ambassador said it is worth mentioning that 42 major French companies, such as Total, Lafarge, Sanofi are operating in Pakistan. This presence in the fields of retail, cement or cosmetics, will continue to expand with clear signals of French investors in that direction, he added.
Answering another question, he said, the present level of bilateral trade between Pakistan and France exceeds 1 billion Euros. With an average of 600 millions Euros, the balance is in favour of the Pakistani exports.
He said the exports are highly concentrated on textile and leather goods (90% of total exports), while an important percentage of import from France are industrial products. There is scope on both sides for further expansion, he added.
The ambassador said from a French perspective, sectors like agriculture, agro industries, utilities, urban development, energy looked the most promising; however this list is not exhaustive.
Replying to a question on cooperation in military sector, the ambassador said France and Pakistan have been maintaining regular dialogues on a number of issues and the French Chief of Army Staff visited Pakistan in the first semester of 2012 and General Wyne recently visited Paris to exchange views with his counterparts.
The recent meetings of the bilateral security commission, two this year, have also been successful in pursuing the bilateral dialogue, he added.
He said the French Embassy in Pakistan is engaged in the support of multiple cultural activities, adding that cultural cooperation between the countries is supported by a strong network of Alliances Françaises in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
He said a French photographer, along with a German colleague, held an exhibition in Lahore of images of Pakistan and very recently a renowned French kathak dancer presented her work in Islamabad.
He said collaboration between France and Pakistan enabled 23 students to be selected for Ph.D programmes in France in 2012, in addition 20 students have been able to benefit from funding to conduct doctoral or post-doctoral research in France. He said numerous Pakistani students are present in French universities through the Erasmus Mundus scheme as well as other European funds.
This year, he said, in addition to its regular fellowship programmes, France has decided to support less privileged students in Pakistan by providing ‘Need-based Scholarships’ to promising students, and in particular young women, from FATA, Balochistan and KPK.
He said France helped a lot for getting more trade access for Pakistan in the EU market and the waiver has been awarded to Pakistan in November 2012 in order to facilitate economic recovery from devastating floods.
He said France has been a supporter of the opening of the European Union’s GSP + advantages to Pakistan and strongly believes that Pakistan should present its application to benefit from this system.
He said the GSP + system, by removing tariffs on key products produced in Pakistan, will allow for Pakistani investors greater opportunities to develop trade with the European Union members.
He said France, along with the European Union, will continue to support the efforts of Pakistan in working towards achieving international human rights standards in order to maximize its chance to get access to preferential trade conditions to access the French and European markets.
On the issue of Afghanistan’s future, the French ambassador said France has, as per this month, withdrawn all its combating troops from Afghanistan.
He said by the end of 2012 only around 1500 army staff will be present in Afghanistan, essentially in Kabul and their role in the country will be to continue to train the Afghan security forces as well as ensuring logistical coordination of the withdrawal of remaining material.
He said this training assistance will continue after 2014 within the framework of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation ratified by France and Pakistan this year.
He said France has been working in collaboration with all NATO and ISAF allies to contribute to stabilization in Afghanistan and will continue to hold dialogue with them and the Afghan government on the situation. France, similarly to Pakistan, supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
He said France has also been providing technical training to Pakistanis in different fields.
Appreciating return of democracy in 2008 in Pakistan, he hoped that with the completion of its five years tenure the elected representatives have achieved to maintain and reinforce the democratic culture of the country.
He said France has been an active member of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan’s forum which illustrates strong commitment to democracy in the country.
“France, as the European Union, encourages all Pakistani stakeholders to continue to work toward the continuous strengthening of democratic processes and institutions and France, like all its European partners, supports the electoral process in Pakistan and commands the work initiated in this field,” he added.
Replying to a question, he said, the European Union will be able to coordinate the presence of European observers on the occasion of forthcoming general elections in Pakistan.
He said as part of the European Union, France is maintaining constant dialogue with its European partners and therefore already part to the reflection surrounding the potential observation mission.
He said France believes that the European Union has been able to make important contributions to the preparation of election through material and technical assistance.