Razzak Dawood damage control mission to US and Europe

Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2001

The visit of the Commerce Minister Razzak Dawood to the United States and Europe during the first week of the current month has been fruitful and the serious threats to our exports have been controlled to a large extent.

The European Commission has announced its decision to withdraw duties on most Pakistani products and allow an increase of 15 per cent in our textile quota. The US official are serious considering legislation to ease or eliminate duties on a range of textiles and garments from Pakistan. US Commerce Secretary has asked the importer to suggest the desirable tariff structure and other measures which will facilitate textile imports from Pakistan on the basis of which as bill could be moved. A bill, when moved, could be so 'broad as to grant President Bush time-limited "proclamation authority" to lift duties at his discretion over the course of a year for Pakistan and any other countries specified in the legislation, or narrow the duty rates enough to cover a list of tariff categories spelled out in the legislation. Some importers are also pressing for trade incentives for India. Turkey, Uzbekistan and others to encourage economic stability in the region. Fearing serious jolts to country's exports as a result of US assault on Afghanistan, the Federal Commerce Minister Abdul Razzak Dawood left for USA and Europe on a damage control mission. Talking to newsmen prior to his departure on a hurriedly arranged tour, the Minister said that his visit was in consequence of events occurring in the United States on Sept 11, 2001.

Signifying the importance of the visit, he divulged that President Pervez Musharraf had talked to American Secretary of State, Colin Powell about it recently. Dilating on three points likely to remain in focus during the visit, he said these included continuation of campaign to confront market access issues related to the country along with endeavour to seek a level playing field from US as well as European Union partners, including clarification of issues emanating from the post-Sept 11 events.

Welcome indeed is the European Union Trade Commissioner's announcement of a new package of concessions to improve Pakistan's exports of textiles and clothing to the European Union countries. It will also be noted that Commerce and Industry Minister Abdul Razzak Dawood has also given the happy tidings of EU's decision to boost exports of value added textiles readymade garments, finished cloth, knitwear, tarpaulin by making their import zero-rated, while stating that cotton yarn, grey and printed cloth would remain subjected to duty. Moreover, the exports of rice, engineering goods and chemical products would also be duty-free while leather goods and carpets would continue to pay the existing rate of import duty. It will also be noted that Pakistan's export quota of textiles, including garments, has been increased by 15 per cent which is estimated to yield additional export earnings of dollar one billion over the next four years by 2004 when quota restrictions on textiles in the international market would cease to be in place.

Reciprocating to the good gesture, Pakistan will offer to the European Union 5 per cent reduction in the import duty rate on the textile items imported from the European countries into Pakistan in the year 2002. In addition to enchanted access .of textile exports specially value-added textile items to the European Union, Pakistan has a vast potential for increasing exports of engineering goods, rice and chemical products which have been included in the duty-free regime for imports in the European Union countries. All this put together, should provide added boost to our exports, especially of engineering goods for the manufacture of which Pakistan has enormous capacity in both the large-scale and medium-scale sectors.

It was perhaps on these encouraging reports that the Chairman Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) declared in Lahore the other day that the export target of $10 billion fixed for the current financial year (2001-2002) will not be revised downward. The Commerce Minister had indicated last month that the target may be reduced by about 1.5 billion dollars.