Home / Interview / Interview with H.E. Joao Paulo Marques Sabido Costa, Chargée d’ Affaires en pied of Portugal in Pakistan

Interview with H.E. Joao Paulo Marques Sabido Costa, Chargée d’ Affaires en pied of Portugal in Pakistan

Pakistan and Portugal enjoy cordial relations and Pakistan wants to further strengthening of bilateral relations. What is the way forward?

The only way forward is to keep on creating and indenting opportunities for cooperation between the two countries at all levels: political, economic, cultural, social and academic. We should make each of our countries more aware of the others.

Portugal comes at 8th place among the top exporting destinations and at 12th place among the top importing member states of European Union. Having said that what is the volume of bilateral trade between the countries? What are your suggestions for its further growth in the days to come?

According to the available data on recent years, the volume of bilateral trade of goods between Portugal and Pakistan is gradually increasing. In 2016, it reached the total amount of 132 million euros. But we should try to intensify even more contacts and dialogue between businessmen and economic institutions of both countries.

What are the preferred imports and exports commodities between the two countries?

In recent years, the preferred products were, from our side, Pakistani textiles, mainly cotton yarn and fabric, as well as clothing; from the Pakistani side, mineral fuels and textile materials. But I think that we should diversify these tendencies, because there is a whole world yet to explore in both our markets. We should also try to simplify the route of some kinds of trade. For example, to produce cricket products, Pakistan was importing cork from Portugal, but trough Germany and Singapore, which naturally increased the cost.

Pakistan is keen to collaborate with Southern Europe in trade and economic affairs while Portugal is a gateway to enhance cooperation and exchange of expertise in the field of business, science and information technology. What are the prospects of mutual cooperation in the fields of business, science and information technology between the two countries?

There are areas in which we should increase our collaboration. Definitely, we can learn with each other and only can gain from that kind of exchange. As an example of new fields of common interest, there are the environmental issues. There is a proposal for a cooperation agreement under negotiation between the two countries to enable easier condition for developing transversal areas of the economic activity in both markets.

What are the preferred areas/sectors of Pakistani investments in your country?

Till now, there is an increasing Pakistani interest in the real estate, using the opportunity of the “Golden Visa” that facilitates residence and even nationality to foreign investors under certain conditions. But we begin to have other kind of interest, as a food products factory opened by a Pakistani businessman in Castelo Branco, in Portugal.
The Port of Sine’s has been under the attention of Pakistani authorities in connection with the commercial maritime routes between that part of Asia, Europe and America. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will certainly imply new strategies for international trade and the Port of Sine’s offers most favorable conditions to respond to those new challenges.

Do both countries have any plan/program of a joint venture in textile, sports or agriculture?

Textile, sports and agriculture areas show a big potential and we should focus more on them. Cooperation would be a way of avoiding undesired competition in areas where both economies have a special interest. While building business partnerships we would be able to add value to our products and reach out to more markets. As to sport, it is a very interesting area because involves Youth and opportunities of social inclusion, much needed nowadays. Therefore, there is a great interest for Pakistan in cooperating with Portugal in the area of Sports like football or others.

What is the potential of untapped Portuguese market for all the traditional and non-traditional products?

We have many products that may interest very much Pakistan, as olive oil and, as I referred, cork. At the same time, Pakistani producers seem to need machinery and know-how for their endeavors that definitely would be also an opportunity for partnerships that go beyond simple trade. But we also appreciate very much Pakistani products of high quality, like rice and, eventually, mangoes. But I am sure that are still many things to be discovered in both markets.

Portugal is famous of its sports and sportsmanship. What are the chances of sports cooperation between the two countries?

As I said before, there is a large field of cooperation in which regards Youth. Pakistan has a very youthful population certainly plenty of skilful sportsmen and sportswomen. In sports like football (soccer) they would benefit from our experience in coaching and high level training. On the other side, Portuguese youth starts discovering sports where Pakistanis are masters, like cricket. The practice of sports is also a way of both our Youths to get to know each other and to build people-to-people ties.

Both countries have a rich culture and heritage which must be showcased. Do you have any concrete plan for the further strengthening of cultural cooperation?

Both Governments are in the moment reviewing and updating the bilateral documents on cultural cooperation. But cultural cooperation, between us, is not only unilaterally promoting each one’s culture. We should develop our knowledge of our mutual cultural heritage that we share in many fields, as well as to cooperate in international entities like UNESCO whether helping each other to prepare and document our candidatures to recognition as World Heritage of our cultural sites or submitting joint candidatures like it has been the case of the Art of Falconry.

Portugal is also famous as adventure tourism destination and has become one of the world’s hottest destinations in 2017. What is the chance of cooperation in this sector of services?

Besides the interest I notice in Pakistani businessmen to start investing in hostelry and on the restoration sector in Portugal, I think we can cooperate very successfully in professional training, for example.

For four consecutive days Portugal was powered entirely by renewable in 2016 which was a major milestone in its journey to a clean energy future. Could it help Pakistan tame its energy crisis which has compromised growth since long?

There is an area very relevant for both countries in which we should as soon as possible concretize our cooperation.

Portugal is a land of knowledge, a place to experience where education has already led it towards a smarter economy. How mutual education cooperation may be enhanced for befitting propositions?

Besides the exchange of students and academics, we should intensify the cooperation between our schools, universities and research centers. Notwithstanding its mains focus to be still in the Commonwealth and English speaking world, I notice in Pakistani education institutions a gradual interest in searching for alternative partners of Portugal, having Portugal being mentioned to me many times in this context.

What is the secret of Portugal’s political stability which is Europe’s rare pleasant surprise?

The art and wisdom of democracy is practiced and learned every day. It is important for a society to be able to abide by the principles of mutual respect, solidarity and cooperation.

What are the macro-economic prospects of your country in 2017 and beyond and secret of having very low inflation in your country?

Our prospects are increasingly good. We expect to grow at close to 3 percent this year, a forecast that is shared with independent forecasters and international institutions. We expect to continue growing at a similar pace going forward. Inflation is in fact arguably too low, a feature that has been affecting most developed economies and remains a concern for the European Central Bank, which has a mandate to keep it below but close to 2 percent (in the Euro area as a whole). As unemployment continues to fall we expect inflation to converge towards the target. Our main concern right now is ensuring that wage and price evolve in line with productivity and do not endanger our companies’ ability to compete.
Most of the EU has boom and bust economies, filled with unchecked government spending and blatant economic inefficiencies? What is Portugal Economic model?
I would argue that your characterization is, in large part, a misconception. While it is true that the Economic and Monetary Union had a somewhat flawed architecture, which was exposed by the global financial crisis, important reforms have been and will continue to be made to address those flaws. Budgetary rules, for example, have been reinforced and are tightly monitored and enforced by both national and European institutions. While some legacy issues remain a concern, such as large public and corporate debt stocks that will take some time to bring down, structural measures have been implemented and our economy is increasingly competitive and exposed to the international competition. Our exports, for example, represented around 27 percent of GDP in 2009 but will represent 42 percent this year and are expected to continue growing at a robust pace going forward. This continued exposure will increasingly limit the scope for inefficiencies and misalignments.
What is pace of industrialization in your country? What are main sectors of industry in your country?

In 2015, the total volume of business in the transforming industry (CAE 10 to 33) reached more than 82 billion Euro, meaning a soaring of 2 percent towards 2014, especially in the areas of food production and beverages where it registered of 18.57 percent of all the industrial sector. Further to those, petrochemicals, chemicals and pharmaceutics sectors registered 15.22 percent vehicles and their components (8.79 percent), textiles and clothing 8.46 percent, electric and electronic equipment 5.44 percent and rubber products and plastic materials 4.84 percent.
In 2016, according with the Portuguese Institute of Statistics, imports and exports of goods grew in 1 percent, machinery and appliances were the more exported (15.4 percent of the total), followed by vehicles and other transportation materials (11.3 percent), plastics and rubber products (7.5 percent) and normal metals (7.3 percent).
During the last decade, there was a meaningful change in the specialization pattern of the Portuguese transforming industry. Some sectors gained relevance and growing dynamic, due to more technological incorporation. There can be underlined, for this purpose the automotive sector and spare parts, the electronic industry, the energy sector, pharmaceutics, new IT technologies
The introduction of digital technologies into production processes to substantially eliminate waste also brought significant changes to the relationship between the various actors in the value chain in order to respond to the increasing individualization of world markets and to generate added value. In view of this phenomenon, the Government presented the Industry 4.0 initiative, which formed the basis for defining the National Strategy for the Digitalization of the Economy, which integrated several entities and a set of national reference companies belonging to the pilot sectors of this initiative: Retail, including fashion; Automotive including molds; Tourism and Agro industries. It should be noted that these chosen sectors represent 25 percent of national GDP and more than 30 percent of employment. Its exports amount to more than 50 percent of everything the country exports.

Under the concept of Industry 4.0 was created an investment program of the Portugal Ventures industrial entrepreneurship program, aimed at entrepreneurs and companies with the objective of promoting the creation of entrepreneurial and university start-ups and spin-offs, contributing to accelerate the development and modernization of the national industry, making it more productive, efficient, flexible, and globally competitive. It is the Call Industry 4.0 that intends to invest in entrepreneurs who develop and integrate solutions based on the technologies that characterize the 4th Industrial Revolution, based on technologies, products or solutions that are globally “marketable”, and that demonstrate that they have international competitiveness factors and scalability potential.

Would you please elaborate the importance of your National Stability Program for 2017-21?

The National Stability Program sets our fiscal consolidation strategy for the medium term. As such it outlines our commitment to continue improving our public finances’ in a sustainable and virtuous manner. Our ambition, as set in the document, is to bring our balance from a 1.5 percent deficit in the present year to a 1.3 percent surplus in 2021. A successful strategy in that regard is important both because of the immediate results – lower deficits, lower borrowing needs – and because of the positive signals it provides to investors which, in turn, will lead to lower interest rates and more investment in our economy.

Many structural reforms in justice and education have been quantifying in your country. What is level of its success?

Portugal has a judicial system which is considered by international entities such as, i.e. IMF and Council of Europe, among the most effective and efficient, exhibiting similar results as of our European partners.

We have been proving, once again and like other areas, our capacity to strongly and in a ponder way address our challenges and implement reforms, with the adoption of a new civil procedure code, as well as modifications on the judicial framework and procedural costs.

As a result, we have cut in 21.2 per cent our pending cases since the last quarter 2012 in civil and commercial cases and reduced 30.4 percent disposition time (compared to the highest value recorded in the 4th quarter of 2014). In civil and commercial enforcement cases, the results were even more impressive. In the last 5 years, we have cut in 37.8 per cent our pending cases, unclogging debt recovery and helping boost economic vitality from thereon. The 1st quarter of 2017 was the 18th consecutive quarter reducing the number of pending cases and we have recorded a reduction of 48.4 percent disposition time (compared to the highest value recorded in the 1st quarter of 2010). At the same time we did not compromise the primacy of material truth over purely procedural issues.

Alongside that, we have been making steadily progress in reducing administrative burdens for businesses and citizens, including a new programme to simplify administrative procedures called simplex +2016.

This level of success owes, not only to the work done in the recent years, but also to the structural reforms taken in the last decades towards a new public management aligned with the public administration and judicial system basic principles.”

What is secret of Portugal’s diversification of commercial diplomacy?

For the last decade, Portugal has implemented a framework for the international trade and investment promotion through a closer coordination between diplomatic and AICEP external activity. The inclusion of AICEP agencies within the foreign affairs field of action empowered promotion initiatives with positive gains in results and resources.

Banking industry plays multiplier effects in macro-economy. What are prospects of banking industry in your country?

Our banking industry has been weakened due to the extended period of low growth and low interest rates, which respectively increased the share of non-performing loans and reduced the sector’s profitability. Gaps in supervision, due to the nature of the Economic and Monetary Union, and some mismanagement, aggravated these problems. But we expect that the system wide recapitalization and restructuring that has been taking place in the past two years and for which we were able to attract foreign capital combined with the strong economic recovery, will enhance our banks’ ability to both solve their legacy issues and provide a more active support to our economy.

Portuguese Government approves a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. What are its salient features?

The Portuguese National Strategy for combating terrorism, approved in February 2015, is founded on the commitment to combat terrorism in all its manifestations. It pursues five strategic objectives:
Detect: identify potential terrorists threats early, through the acquisition of essential knowledge for an effective combat, both from the perspective of its isolated dismantling, as well as other detection outbreaks of terrorist action;
Prevent: know and identify the causes that determine the emergence of processes of radicalization, recruitment and terrorist acts;
Protect: strengthen the security of priority targets, reducing both their vulnerability and the impact of potential terrorist threats;
Pursue: dismantle or neutralize planned or ongoing terrorist initiatives and their support networks;
Respond: manage operationally all means to be used in responding to terrorist occurrences.
Also, while recognizing that International and European cooperation is of fundamental importance in the prospect of developing joint actions to channel efforts to combat terrorism, the National Strategy foresees that cooperation between Portuguese Armed Forces, security forces and services is deepened, and plans and actions are envisaged within its framework, which are to be coordinated by the Anti-Terrorism Coordination Unit.
Portugal is a country “committed with Paris Agreement” about climate changes, and also in the frontline against global warming, that affects it directly, because of the climb of the sea level. What is the stance of your country on climate change? What steps need to be taken to cope with this alarming situation in the world?

Portugal is committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and was one of the first countries of the European Union to ratify the agreement. We believe in the need to act against climate change and we are doing our part in reducing carbon emissions in order to achieve the goals that have been set out.

People chanted slogans while taking part in a march under the slogan “Refugees Welcome” in Lisbon. What is national policy of your country?

The migration crisis has put a heavy burden on the EU and its member States. We are convinced that only collectively and in full respect of the European fundamental values can we tackled this crisis in an effective way.

Portugal has supported the EU initiatives, both in the internal and external fronts, and participates actively in the joint endeavor to solve the crisis and to prevent future ones from occurring, preserving the Schengen acquis.

Portugal has been ranking in the top 5 EU countries under the Relocation Scheme. This is more than just a token commitment: it testifies solidarity towards European partners, empathy to those people in need of international protection, commitment to our international Human Rights obligations, as well as a deep belief in the humanist and Universalist tradition that the Portuguese long History embodies and runs deep the Portuguese People’s hearts.

Both the Portuguese Government and the Portuguese civil society are very much committed in what concerns integration of the refugees and this effort has been very successful.
Let me underline our support to the Global Platform Initiative led by former-President Jorge Sampaio that allows Syrian students to continue their studies in Universities abroad. There are currently around 100 Syrian students in Portugal.
The EU-Turkey Declaration has been an important milestone in the context of the response to the crisis: the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea has significantly decreased. Portugal recognizes the need for continued implementation of the agreement and is doing its part of the deal.

Also in the external front, we have always favoured cooperation with third countries in order to fight against the root causes of migration and to stem irregular migration flows and international criminality, namely migrant smuggling and human trafficking. The EU is taking a big step in this regard and Portugal supports the New Partnership Framework and the Pacts that are being negotiated with some of our African partners.

What is so special about Portugal cultural policy 2016-17?

Currently, the internationalization of the Portuguese culture is guided by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers nº 70/2016 (of November 22, 2016), which advocates a more integrated management in the planning and execution of the public policies of External Cultural Action, as well as at the Level of the allocation of public support and the promotion of the promotion of Portuguese culture abroad.
Since in the context of this transverse activity a number of public bodies / services are involved, this resolution approves not only general guidelines for action, but also determines the coordination / articulation of public policies for external cultural action. This coordination competence is attributed to two bodies under the supervision of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture, Camões, IP and GEPAC Cultural Strategy, Planning and Evaluation Office, respectively.

Within the framework of the general guidelines for action, transversal programming axes have been defined that focus on topics inspired by current issues (such as Architecture, Design and Urban Interventions, Sustainable Development, Culture, Citizenship and Gender, Education, Science and Innovation, Inter-culturalism and migrations, etc.), promoting the cultural promotion initiatives through the active role of the external networks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Embassies and Consulates) and of Camões, IP (Cultural Centers or Language centers), in partnership with other entities, both foreign and domestic (not only public bodies with a mission in the area of internationalization of Portuguese culture, but as well creators, associations, etc.).
In 2017, this coordination culminated in the elaboration of an Annual Indicative Plan of External Cultural Action, presented publicly by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Culture, on February 3, 2017, which covers 75 countries, from 5 continents and includes approximately 1,300 actions.

Public entities / bodies are supporting and monitoring activities in order to ensure follow-up of the plan and to propose alternatives where necessary. As for public communication, the systematization of information and the dissemination of cultural activities are done through the site Camões Portal, I.P., in particular in the Cultural Agenda.

What is your message to people of Pakistan?

I think that the people of Pakistan should be proud of the beautiful country they have, of their qualities, generosity and hospitable. Pakistan has a very old culture and an important history. Being conscientious of all these aspects the Pakistani people will be ready to give its needed contribute to the world and to solving the serious problems that affect humanity.

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