THE EXPORT TARGET

New target will be announced in the forthcoming trade policy

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
July  21 - 27 , 2003 

The export target for the current year (2003-04) may be enhanced and set at $12 billion in view of the performance of the outgoing year which crossed $11 billion against the target of $10.4.

Talking informally to the newsmen in the National Assembly, Commerce Minister, Humayun Akhtar Khan, disclosed that the new target will be announced in the new trade policy which is being formulated by the Commerce Ministry and likely to be announced in third week of July. He said the exports of the country touched the figure of $11 billion, surpassing the set target of $10.4 billion for fiscal 2002-03. The minister claimed that it is unprecedented in the trade history of the country that actual figure exceeded the set target, showing the government's commitment for promotion of exports to achieve the target, and strengthen the economy of the country.

Humayun said that this situation was the result of good economic policies and indicated growth and sustainability. He believed that the same trend will continue in the coming years to take Pakistan's exports to optimum level. He gave credited of better performance on economic front to continuity in policies. He said that last year's trade policy had worked to the expectations but a number of changes were on the cards for 2003-04. Exploring of new international markets and entering in export of non-traditional items were two major tools to increase exports, he added.

He said that the same pattern would be followed for 2003-04 but with some modifications, to get the desired results. Pakistan would focus on China, Afghanistan, Turkey, EU, Far Eastern countries, and Africa besides strengthening its position in traditional markets. Promotion of export of non-traditional items and exploration of new international markets have been two focal points of Islamabad's policy to enhance exports. The policy has worked to the expectation of the policy makers, the Commerce Minister said adding that he would fully back these priorities. He was confident that it was the best way to make a big leap forward to substantially add to the country's exports. According to him, non-traditional items share in 2002-03 exports was $500 million, which he believed was good enough.

On the issue of signing of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the US, Humayun said it was in line with Islamabad's policy to enter into various agreements to ensure access of Pakistan's traders to important market. He said he was confident that TIFA would transform into 'free trade agreement' (FTA). However, the duration for transformation would depend on pace of progress as well as implementation of intellectual property rights laws for which the government is setting up PIPRO, he added.

The minister said the government would use Afghanistan as a launching pad to enhance its exports to Central Asian States. The minister was of the view that WTO regime would benefit Pakistan in all terms. The government was taking various measures to fit Pakistan in post 2005 scenario. These include substantial cut in duties, better quality and standards for all major sectors, and abolition of subsidies for agriculture sectors.

He was of the view that WTO regime would eliminate quota system, which would pay benefit to Pakistan, as its traders would have free access to many major markets. The Commerce Minister ruled out any possibility of granting 'most favoured nation' (MNF) status to India. He linked such concession to New Delhi with sustained political ties saying "we are open for talks with India on all issues but just one item of trade cannot be taken up in isolation". The Minister said that Pakistan and Turkey have agreed, in principle, to enhance bilateral trade for which setting up of Pak-Turk Investment Company, on pattern of Pak-Oman Investment Company, was under consideration.