President Ilham Aliyev and President Mamnoon Hussain attended the Azerbaijani-Pakistani business forum

Baku, March, 12, AZERTAC

The Azerbaijani-Pakistani business forum has kicked off in Baku.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain attended the event.

The heads of state made speeches at the forum.

Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear Mr. President!

Distinguished guests!

Ladies and gentlemen!

Mr. President, I want to welcome you to Azerbaijan again. Yesterday was a very productive day for our bilateral relations. We talked about the further development of our bilateral ties. I am very pleased with the level of our cooperation. Yesterday we signed important documents which will create ample opportunities for the partnership between our countries. In particular, the Declaration on Strategic Partnership signed between Azerbaijan and Pakistan reflects the essence of our cooperation and our feelings for each other. We enjoy the highest level of cooperation, partnership and brotherhood in the true sense of the word.

For us, Pakistan is one of the closest friends and allies. I am sure that this visit will make a new contribution to the development of our cooperation. We have excellent political relations. We support each other in international organizations. We are real allies. Therefore, of course, we have to make the best use of these excellent relations and turn them into a collaboration between the business communities of our countries.

If we look at the trade between Pakistan and Azerbaijan, of course we can’t be pleased with it. For this reason, I am very grateful to Mr. President for coming to Azerbaijan with a large delegation – important representatives of the business community of Pakistan. You have obtained the opportunity to learn more about our country and its opportunities, the projects we plan to implement. At the same time, we want to see good results of the business forum.

In general, the cooperation format such as a business forum, which envisages meetings between representatives of the business community, is very effective and can yield good results. I am certain that you will, first of all, talk about raising the level of bilateral trade and about what can be imported from our countries. I think that government agencies can act as a coordinator. Relevant ministries and the Intergovernmental Economic and Trade Commission can coordinate this issue. Both we and you import many goods. For this reason, we need to think about what we can import from each other so that to strengthen the economy and increase the total turnover.

We would be happy if Pakistani companies could review investment opportunities in Azerbaijan. In particular, this applies to the import-dependent sectors of our economy, because our market is growing. For this reason, an increase of domestic production is one of the priorities of our government. I think that foreign investors could consider these issues. There is a very favorable investment environment. In the recent years of independence, about $200 billion has been invested in Azerbaijan. Originally this applied to the energy sector. And now other sectors of our economy are also included.

We are interested in seeing Pakistani companies as contractors. I am sure that there will be a presentation of infrastructure projects we are implementing, mainly in Baku and the regions. Due to the development of our regions we have opened new opportunities in the countryside and have already successfully implemented two programs. Currently, a third program is under way. Our plans for the next few years are also known quite well. The program on the development of regions has been published. For this reason, the work planned in every district and city is well known to our people and investors.

By adopting the State Investment Programme every year, we pay attention mainly to infrastructure, to the social infrastructure. For this reason, there is a broad agenda for foreign investors in Azerbaijan, and we can accomplish it together. In particular, we can consider establishing joint ventures in important sectors of our economies both in Pakistan and Azerbaijan. We can also appreciate mutual investment programs. I want to say again that we have to make the best use of the excellent political relations to create good business opportunities. This is the first thing. And secondly, just as we support each other in the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international institutions, we have to support each other in terms of economic cooperation in the same manner. We must support each other to promote business opportunities.

Mr. President and I spoke about Islamic solidarity yesterday. We in Azerbaijan and you in Pakistan are doing a lot to create a better understanding and cooperation among all Muslim countries. We need to support each other with our deeds, statements and economic opportunities. The countries with good experience in one sector of the economy should help others to acquire technology, experience and knowledge.

In short, our goals are the same. I am sure that today’s business forum will produce very good results, and we will soon get good reports about new areas of cooperation from relevant ministries.

With regard to the economy of Azerbaijan, it is developing very fast. In the early years of independence of Azerbaijan, our economic situation was very difficult. The level of unemployment and poverty in our country was very high. Inflation exceeded 1,000 per cent. Then, in the mid-1990s, we began to implement economic reforms. They continue to this day. At present, our economy is considered competitive. The Davos Economic Forum has put Azerbaijan's economy in 38th place in the world in terms of global competitiveness. This was achieved mainly thanks to economic reforms.

We have managed to reduce poverty and unemployment to 5 per cent. Over the past 10 years, the Azerbaijani economy has been the fastest growing economy in the world. This was mainly due to the increasing production of oil and gas. At the same time, our economic reforms have yielded results too. At the present time, when oil prices are falling, we see that our economy is still developing. A similar situation occurred five to six years ago. Then, the oil industry was faced with some difficulties, Europe experienced a serious financial and economic crisis. Despite this, the Azerbaijani economy developed. The gross domestic product grew and the non-oil sector of our economy developed. This is more important for us because our plans call for even greater diversification. Whereas in previous years we were more dependent on the price of oil and gas, now oil and gas account for about 40 per cent of our GDP.

Nevertheless, it still is the biggest part of our exports. For this reason, we are interested in diversifying the economy, creating new investment opportunities and increasing domestic production. At the same time, in addition to energy, we are interested in exporting other products. Here is an important point. Of course, our products must meet international standards. And we are doing that. The second important point is the market. As you know, to put it mildly, there is a competition, more precisely, struggle for markets now. For this reason, such fraternal countries as ours should create opportunities for each other to access the market. As I mentioned earlier, we import a lot and you import even more. We have to think about what exports we can provide each other with. We must declare our markets open to each other. In this case we will create jobs, develop capital and economic activity.

In short, we are very optimistic about our bilateral economic cooperation. We must not miss this great opportunity and should pay attention to practical projects. Sufficient information about the work planned in Azerbaijan, the regulations, the legal environment, the tax regime, investment opportunities and, finally, about our plans for the future will be provided today.

For this reason, I want to welcome all the representatives of the business community of Pakistan to Azerbaijan. At the same time, I want to once again express my gratitude to Mr. President for the visit to Azerbaijan and for the opportunity to pay attention to the economic sphere.

Thank you very much.

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Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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The forum, which brings together Azerbaijani and Pakistani officials, and nearly 100 businessmen from the fields of agriculture, industry, construction, healthcare, ICT and other areas, will feature several presentations and speeches.

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