Joao Paulo Sabido Costa : Portugal, Pakistan ties growing fast
Charge d’ Affaires of Portugal talks to Centreline & DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Firstly, we will be interested to know about the bilateral relations, interest to us, how would you describe these relations in the fields of business, trade, and economy?
Although having tended to be stalled for many years, these relations are now growing and improving very fast. During 2016 we have witnessed an evident increase in trade ties, namely with regard to our exports. Several initiatives were meanwhile launched, as the Pakistan Portugal Business Council of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or the Pakistan Portugal Business Forum that has been created in Portugal. There is an awakening in our main economic institutions regarding the potential of Pakistan and as result many business and investment opportunities have been identified.
What is the level of political relations between the two countries?
I should say that our political relations were always good, practically since the independence of Pakistan. Portugal opened an Embassy in Karachi very early after the independence which was later transferred to Islamabad, where it is now. There are no sensitive issues between our Governments and nor are there any difficult problems to solve. Nevertheless, till recently this did not correspond to the intensity and frequency of our political contacts. Last year, Portugal was visited by the Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping of Pakistan, Senator Kamran Michael, responsible for an area extremely important for us. It was the first visit at this level since several years ago. Also last year, our Foreign Ministers met and political consultations took place in Lisbon. In 2017, already there are prospects for more of these kinds of initiatives. I hope that they will materialize, because I consider them extremely important for a better mutual knowledge of both our countries and societies, leading to a closer cooperation and a win-win situation for both the countries.
What in your view may be the areas of common interest where both Portugal and Pakistan can cooperate or are already cooperating?
Actually, there are a lot of areas in which we can cooperate. As an example I would mention, renewable energies, and the interest that the Pakistani market already shows for our machinery and technological knowhow. There is in Pakistan an evident interest in cork products of all kinds – let us remember that cork is, inclusive, employed for cricket material – or olive oil. Pakistan has also products which are of great interest us, and that besides basmati rice or mango that we relish so much. And we cannot forget the interest that Pakistani investors are showing in our market.
What kind of facilities/incentives are available to foreign investors, in Portugal?
Since 2012 there is a new incentive for non EU nationals to invest in Portugal commonly known as Golden Visa. This is in fact a Residence Permit for Investment Program that enables the holder to obtain a temporary residence permit to conduct business activities.
The investment should last for five years and can either be a capital transfer with a value of 1 million Euros, a purchase of real estate property with a value of 500 thousand Euros, capital transfer with the value of 350 thousand Euros for investing in research activities or of 250 thousand Euros for investing in artistic output or supporting the arts, for reconstruction or refurbishment of the national heritage. The holder is entitled to family reunification and is exempt of visa for traveling within the Schengen area. After five years he can apply for permanent residence and after six years he can also apply for Portuguese citizenship, for which here are other criteria which need to be fulfilled.
Pakistan as you know has a very alarming energy crisis. Can Portugal help Pakistan in any way to overcome the energy shortages?
Portugal has undeniable know how in the area of renewable energy, as well as of hydroelectric power. That is an advantage recognized by our Pakistani counterparts at all levels and can provide a promising field of cooperation. If we keep in mind, for example, the potential in Pakistani territory in respect of wind and solar energy, we will have to admit that both our countries and economies can cooperate and greatly benefit from such ventures.
What is your view on the business climate in Pakistan? Please also share your views on Pakistan government efforts in war on terror?
The business climate in Pakistan is definitely improving with the opening of the country to the world, as well as with the bettering of the security situation. It is undeniable, also, that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor that will link China to the Arabian Sea, will be a regional game changer and will offer many business and investment opportunities, also to Portuguese companies. Understandably, Pakistani war on terror has a say on that and it is an effort that we acknowledge. Portugal supports the efforts of the Pakistani authorities to implement its Counter-Terrorism strategy. The same way, terrorism is a world phenomenon and can only be effectively eliminated through a committed international action, able to approach it in all its perspectives. In this regard, we have been actively supporting the efforts of the international community, namely the UN.
Portugal is perhaps a must-visit tourist destination. How can Portugal and Pakistan benefit from each other’s experience in this field?
There are many things we can learn from each other. Tourism is an important activity in Portugal and we created a modern infrastructure in this regard. On the other side, Pakistan has a lot of touristic potential, being for its astonishing landscapes, for its ancient culture or for its diversity. Entities like the Aga Khan Foundation are contributing to the creation of touristic infrastructures linked to job creation and regional development. I wish that Portugal can also contribute to that effort in a way capable to be advantageous for both sides, namely through the training and qualification of human resources of tourism.
Being an important country in the EU, what are Portugal’s views on Brexit?
This issue after the official notification of withdrawal by the British government, is being discussed within the European Union and with the United Kingdom. In the first place, we should bear in mind the dominant role of democracy and the people’s will for choosing their country’s path. Democracy is the basis of the European Union and we must always respect it. But I am sure that both sides will finish by finding a balanced and mutually beneficial agreement that will frame a constructive future relationship, for we should always believe in the power of talks and cooperative negotiation. This is especially true when we are referring to a country that has been a Member-state for more than 45 years and that, after the withdrawal, will inevitably remain a very important and close partner of the EU.
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