EPB

Facilitating the export sector within and outside the country to gain new heights: Tariq Ikram

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Jan 05 - 11, 2004

Tariq Ikram, the Minister of State and the Chairman Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), while reposing his confidence in the untiring efforts of the private sector as the spearhead for the national economy has paid full marks to the exporters who, what he called, were competing in the international market despite a low infrastructure back up and knowledge-based support enjoyed by the developed world.

He specially mentioned the efforts by the textile sector where over $4 billion have been invested by the private sector on expansion and modernization of the plants and hopefully this sector is well equipped to meet the challenges in the days to come.

As far as the EPB role as an export facilitator was concerned, it is also doing exceptionally well by paving the way for a smooth sailings of the exporting sector at home as well as outside the country.

Under an export strategy, the EPB is encouraging the export of non-traditional items besides finding new markets specially in the African and the East European economies, and these efforts have starting producing results, he said with a sense of achievement.

By and large, the export performance in the first half of the 2003-04 ended December 31, 2003 shows that all the active sector were close to the target and the trend so far set especially by the non-traditional items raises hopes not only for hitting the growth target of $12.1 billion set for the current year but hopefully may exceed the target, he said firmly.

Besides the traditional items such as textile products, leather, hand knotted carpet, rice, sports and surgical goods, the growth in the exports of non-traditional items is worth mentioning. Prominent among the non-traditional items are fish and fish preparations, fruits, vegetables, chemicals and its products, pharmaceutical products, engineering goods, marble and granite, gems and jewelry, IT services, poultry/eggs, wheat. Guar and guar products, cement, animal casings, handicraft, tobacco, and furniture.

All these non-traditional items have registered a significant growth during the first six months and the most outstanding performance has been displayed by the cement sector which has taken a quantum jump by increasing 2004 percent during the current financial year as compared to its performance in the previous year.

The shortage of wheat was a setback to the exports as this category had contributed a significant $85 million to the total exports of the country last year. Due to shortage of wheat this year we are losing our wheat market, however, it is hoped that this is a temporary phase and the country will recoup this shortfall next season. The main factors behind the wheat shortage were the illegal trade of the wheat to the neighboring countries and the steps are underway to check it in the future.

Tariq Ikram while outlining the efforts and new strategy adopted by the EPB for producing better results are including launching an EPB Website which gives an update about the export inquiries, new rules in the international market and other changes if any in the rules, and all relevant information about the international exhibitions around the world. He recalled that there were times that EPB used to issue a weekly newsletter regarding export inquiries and other information related to export sector, but this letter due to manual handling and other handicaps never reached to the exporters in time and this lacking would naturally reflect in the overall performance of the export sector. Now the situation has been completely changed and each new development is available on the website, he said.

Under the new strategy, we have tried to use the leverage of traditional relations with the friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Iraq, and Iran which has also started producing positive results except China where our export does not translate to the depth of relations between the two countries. Under this export promotion strategy efforts have also been made for regional and bilateral export development especially in the European Union, United States, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. In this region we have achieved better results especially in the EU zone and there are strong hopes for a big leap to our exports in the eurozone as l0 more countries of the Eastern Europe are joining European Union during 2004. This expansion in EU must very significant for Pakistan because the market demand of these additional countries is very much identical to the Pakistani products. Another important area in which EPB has made headway is the development of Women Entrepreneurship, as a result of these efforts so far as many as 122 women entrepreneurs have started contributing in the export sector of the country.

WTO

Replying to a question about the fast approaching WTO rules with effect from January 1, 2005, Tariq Ikram said that it's a matter of great satisfaction that Pakistan manufacturing sector has taken a lead over the countries in the region. As far as the tariff reduction was concerned, we have already achieved the benchmark and this aspect will not pose any problem for the economy. Another issue was child labor, which has been addressed so effectively in Pakistan and Pakistan is cited as an example internationally for resolving this issue, while India, Bangladesh and even China may still facing this problem. As far as quality certification of the manufacturing sector was concerned majority of the export sector has already gone through the process and the EPB is currently in the process of compiling database of all these companies certified with ISO and other International Quality certifications. The only problem area which has yet to be addressed is the environmental issues for which a comprehensive program has already been chalked out.

Under this program, an amount of Rs500 million has been allocated for development of 11 industrial affluent treatment plants by 2005. In Karachi Tannery area a huge treatment plant has already started functioning in collaboration with Dutch technical and financial support.