Sep 26 - Oct 2, 2011

Approving the recommendations of the Trade Policy 2011-12, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, at a largely attended meeting of the ministers and high officials of the ministries of commerce and finance in Islamabad last week, directed them to focus on the regional trade and realize the immense potential it offers to enhance the country's export.

A realistic target of $26 billion was, however, set for the ongoing financial year against $25 billion exports achieved during the financial 2010-11.

The trade policy aims at achieving the export target of $26 billion during the current fiscal year through seeking better market access and addressing tariff and non-tariff issues.

After the presentation by the officials of the commerce ministry, the prime minister informed the participants that he would soon hold a conference of ambassadors and trade officer posted abroad in a bid to bolster exports from Pakistan.

He will give them the task pursuing the trade diplomacy for increasing exports. The prime minister also directed the ministry of commerce to focus on the regional countries like Iran, Oman, gulf cooperation council countries, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh where he saw lot of potential for Pakistani exports.

Presentation on trade policy 2011-12 at the PM House and was attended by the commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, finance minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, deputy chairman planning commission, secretary commerce, secretary finance, chairman trade development authority of Pakistan,(TDAP) and other senior officials.

Talking about the proposed conference of Pakistani ambassadors, the prime minister said that the performance of ambassadors would, in future, be evaluated in view how far they succeed in improving trade relations as well as exports to their respective countries.

Secretary commerce expressed the hope that the country would achieve $26 billion export target. He said that the ministry was geared up towards seeking better market access, addressing tariff and non-tariff issues, and countering tariff barriers.

He informed the participants that Pakistan had concluded free trade agreements with China, Sir Lanka, and Malaysia and SAARC free trade area (SAFTA) besides signing preferential trade agreements with Iran and Mauritius.

Continuing he said that agreements currently being negotiated include Pakistan-China second phase, Pakistan-Singapore FTA, Pakistan-Indonesia PTA, Pakistan-Turkey PTA, Pakistan-Sri Lanka comprehensive economic partnership, Pakistan-GCC free trade agreement, and Pakistan-Mauritius FTA. Besides, many other initiatives for greater market access in Asia Pacific are underway, the secretary said adding that the functioning FTA with China had made Beijing one of the biggest trading partners of Pakistan and the total numbers of delegations had markedly increased.

The ministry of commerce emphasized the need of export of human resource and explained its plan to chalk out a comprehensive strategy in collaboration with technical education and vocational training institute as well as with provinces to train the work force required in GCC, EU, and the USA.

For this purpose, the trade missions of the ministry are being assigned to work on proactive basis in consultation with overseas employment corporation, bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment, he added.

Finance Minister, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh asked the ministry to strive to diversify the export base, as the traditional approach may not wok successfully in the highly competitive international market.

He suggested that the structural changes must be brought about keeping in view the dynamism of the international markets especially in view of the fact that the economies of European countries and the US are on slippery ground.

He threw his full support behind the idea of less interference from the government side in export transaction and avoidance of official micro-management of the economy to get better results.

Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haq highlighted the importance of formulating the domestic trade policy saying that internal dynamics of trade have direct bearing on external trade.

The strength of the internal trade, he said, would give the requisite boost to our efforts to increase exports. He said, "we should not neglect this area but ironically we do not have any policy to facilitate the domestic trade".

"Openness, competitiveness, regular evaluation and less official control over the business should be fulcrum of our economic development strategy and economic activity."