Denmark keen to expand ties with Pakistan: Danish envoy

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Nov 29, 2o13.

Islamabad – The Embassy of Denmark in Islamabad is all set to open its first-ever commercial section in a bid to boost bilateral trade and investment between Denmark and Pakistan.

The commercial section will be operational from Monday, December 2, the Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan, Jesper Moller Sorensen, told The Express Tribune.

“I personally see a very large potential in Pakistan for Danish companies and I see potential for increase in trade between our two countries both ways,” the Ambassador said.

Sorensen, who arrived in Pakistan on his official assignment in August, said he has spent the past three months going around the country, understanding the needs of the country and building support among the Pakistani business community.

In the second phase, he said, he will travel back to Denmark — first in December and, later, in January 2014 — to talk with the Danish business community about investment opportunities in Pakistan.

“I cannot force the Danish companies to come to Pakistan. That will be up for the individual companies,” Sorensen said. “So the business case I have to make for the Danish companies is to say this (Pakistan) is attractive, there is potential and basically you can make a profit here.”

But the Danish Ambassador was forthright about potential concerns Danish investors might have about, or face in, Pakistan, chief among them the country’s fragile security situation.

He said he would be honest with the Danish investors but would also suggest them to build linkages and joint ventures with Pakistani companies to minimize risk from Pakistan’s security issues.

Pakistan, struggling with its power crisis, could get valuable support in the energy sector from the European country. Denmark is considered to be a stronghold of renewable energy, with almost 50 per cent of the world’s wind turbines being manufactured in Denmark, according to some estimates.

Sorensen said renewable energy is “an excellent area” for cooperation, given the Pakistani government’s focus on alternative energy in its new energy policy.

The Ambassador also said Denmark’s private industry could also support Pakistan in energy conservation technologies and agricultural machinery.

A better security situation would be required, though.

“If the security situation could be alleviated, I am confident that more Danish companies will be willing to invest in Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistani state could also learn from Denmark’s example to improve its taxation and accountability systems and, consequently, its service delivery mechanisms.

Denmark, ranked internationally as one of the least corrupt countries and happiest nation, has some of the highest tax rates in the world. But it also has one of the widest taxation bases and the Danes have access to free health care and education.

Sorensen said the Danes reconcile with the heavy taxes because they understand that in “a truly democratic system with accountability, there is also responsibility.”

“Those who are elected are, of course, accountable to the people that have elected them,” the Danish Ambassador said. “And the people are also responsible both ways because if they receive basic services from the state they know that they have to give something in return.”

Sorensen said Denmark would like Pakistan to live by its own resources and by trade it does with other countries, in the long run.

In the short-term, however, Denmark is focusing on providing bilateral assistance, the most prominent display of which is the recently-launched $50million development assistance programme for Pakistan by the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).

One component of the new development programme, which runs till the end of 2016, is robust interventions to promote primary education in conflict-affected areas, such as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

As the second component, Sorensen said Denmark will work with the provincial governments for capacity building and with civil society organizations on the cross-cutting themes of democratization, human rights and gender equality.

He said Denmark would like Pakistan to continue in the positive direction set by a democratic transition of civilian governments.

“For us, Pakistan is an important country,” the Ambassador said. “What happens in Pakistan, is not only important to the people of Pakistan, it is important to the people of South Asia and it also can have consequences for us in Europe.”

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