H.E. Rodolf Jose Martin-Saravia
Ans: Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Argentina have always remained excellent. Our diplomatic and trade ties have been harmonious, constructive and steady since establishment in October 1951. Both countries have done a lot to promote contacts at government as well as people-to-people level. Particularly, in the last seven years, when I took over as the ambassador to Pakistan, we have seen a fostered and strong relationship and I must say that I have succeeded in my efforts to create environment for the flourishing Pak-Argentina relations with the help of lots of Pakistani friends, authorities, businessmen and sportsmen. However, I feel that both countries should further cement the ties as there is always a room for betterment.
JWT: In what major areas, the two countries have bilateral cooperation?
Ans: Argentina and Pakistan have not even a single bone of contention between them and hopefully, this position will sustain in future as well. I can predict this with absolute confidence. We have a strong will and determination to enhance the cooperation in the major areas of economy like fields of science and technology, investment, trade, etc. It has always been a prime target to me and my team has always worked vigilantly to achieve this goal.
JWT: But the facts and figures reveal that the trade volume between the two countries is not very high. What, in your opinion, is the factor behind?
Ans: First of all, keep in mind that the trade volume keeps on changing in the course of time. This has been also seen in our trade figures of the past many years. However, the ground reality is quite different now. For example, when I arrived here, the trade volume was below 100 million dollars. But, the data from past two years shows a considerable increase as we recorded $200 million bilateral trade. Admittedly, there is lot more to do. It is also a fact that due to some domestic problems here and there and the global financial crunch, trade volume has dropped a bit and today, it ranges from $120 to 140 million. But there exists a lot of potential for enhancing and promoting this sector. Certain items have not been mentioned in the global statistics of Pak-Argentinean bilateral trade like huge compressors used in the CNG. It happens because there are traders who send their items to Pakistan via Dubai and therefore, their figures could not be included in the overall trade volume.
You know that Argentina is a big tea grower and huge quantity of Argentinean tea enters Pakistan as it is a big market for our tea. Argentinean tea is not exported to Pakistan directly, it comes through Kenya. Some other examples can also be sought in this regard. But, at the end of the day, what counts is that what we are going to do or how we are promoting the bilateral trade.
JWT: Even then, the trade relations are not as established as the political and diplomatic relations between the two countries?
Ans: Regarding this, there are two things of utmost importance; firstly, Argentina has categorically imposed some regulations on imports not only from Pakistan but from all over the world and secondly very few commodities are exported from Pakistan. We are on the way to remove these conditionalities in phases. On the other hand, Pakistan should diversify the production of the items like textiles, surgical items, sports goods, fruit, etc. and find other markets besides Argentina to export them. Pakistani embassies, commercial counsellors, businessmen need to go to trade missions abroad. You will certainly find many countries willing to buy Pakistani goods. They have to import many commodities which they buy from other countries and why they will not buy from you? For example, there is a limit to which Argentina can import footballs from Pakistan. So to increase the trade volume, you have to find something else exportable to Argentina.
Ans: We have a mechanism of ‘memorandum of understanding (MoU)’ on trade and economic cooperation signed in the early years of the last decade. It established a joint committee on trade and economic cooperation. So far, we have held two meetings; first in Pakistan in September 2005 and second in August 2007 in Argentina. We are trying to hold another meeting here in Islamabad very soon to further enhance our cooperation. Last year, a high level delegation of 11 senior Argentinean government officials wanted to visit Pakistan but due to some inevitable reasons, they could not so.
Ans: Yes, there are some areas where joint ventures are operational. For example, a joint project between Ferozsons Laboratories and an Argentinean company is successfully working in Lahore. It is in the field of pharmaceutical, specially, medicine on cancer cure. It is a state of the art and the most modern laboratory not only in Pakistan but also in south east Asia.
JWT: In the regional context, Afghan scenario is changing with the announcement of Nato drawdown by 2014. What is the Argentinean policy in this regard?
Ans: We believe in peace and stability and want it to prevail in Afghanistan. We will hopefully become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) next year. We wish to work with Pakistan not only in this field but also seek its support on the issues like Malvinas or Falkland Islands. Pakistan has supported most of the Argentinean resolutions in this regard. We believe that there should not colonial spots like Malvinas in the world. Falkland Islands are the largest colonial spots in the world. The entire world is calling for the elimination of this colonial system.
JWT: After Salala incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, the relations between Pakistan and USA came under stress. With reopening of Nato supplies, what is the view from Argentina on Pak-US relations?
Ans:-Argentina has always supported and advocated for peace all over the world. We believe that Pakistan and the US should come to some understanding on the issue of strategic relations not only in bilateral ties on counter-terrorism but they should also support each other in all areas of cooperation. Pakistan and the United States need each other to solve the Afghanistan problem. I have a strong conviction that the Afghan issue could not be resolved without participation of Pakistan.