Thursday, September 21st, 2017
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Commerce Ministry has undertaken an extensive exercise to impose or enhance Regulatory Duty (RD) on import of non essential/luxury items aimed at reducing trade deficit which has reached an alarming level. This was disclosed by Minister for Commerce Pervaiz Malik and Commerce Secretary, Younus Dagha at a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce headed by Senator Syed Shibli Faraz.

Commerce Ministry''s team recently gave a detailed presentation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on revision of Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2015-18 and further incentives for all sectors including textile. However, Textile Division of Commerce Ministry is unaware of any new package for the textile sector.

Commerce Ministry is opposing surcharge on electricity and GIDC on gas so that industry is provided cheap electricity. The Commerce Minister said the government is also worried about the economic situation of the country including trade and assigned the difficult task to him and he will try to find a solution on professional lines.

He said that institutions'' human resource requirements will be met but at the same time the concerned officials will be held responsible. "We are taking measures to increase exports and decrease imports through rationalization of duties and taxes," he added.

The Commerce Minister said that former Prime Minister had extended an incentive package of Rs 180 billion to exporters early this year; and another package will be announced. Both Commerce Minister and Secretary Commerce claimed that exports in August 2017 increased by 25 per cent as compared to August 2016. However, Tuesday evening PBS clarified that actual increase in exports was 14.41 per cent and not 25 per cent.

Talking about FTAs, the Commerce Minister said that Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha is visiting China along with his team to discuss FTA-II as the existing agreement has expired, adding that Pakistan wants Early Harvest Program (EHP) with China. He said that recommendations of Senate Committee will be honoured in letter and spirit.

Secretary Commerce who is not negotiating FTAs with Turkey and Thailand said in the past Pakistan did not negotiate FTAs appropriately. Former Commerce Minister, Engineer Khurram Dastgir had made similar observations about existing FTAs.

Senator Ilyas Bilour suggested that the government should slap non tariff barriers to discourage unnecessary imports. He said, Pakistan''s exports cannot be increased until cost of doing business, especially energy, is rationalized and whatever package is given to exporters is actually implemented in letter and spirit.

Commerce Secretary agreed with Senator Ilyas Bilour that the cost of doing business is higher in Pakistan as compared to its competitors. "We have requested Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to take stringent measures to discourage imports," he said.

Senator Salim Mandviwalla, former Finance Minister, criticised the performance of the Commerce Ministry with respect to questionable export performance and a surge in imports which has created balance of payment difficulties. He also suggested that Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) should be wound up as it has limited itself to exhibitions.

Secretary Commerce, however, informed the committee that consultants are being hired for each sector with the title of Product Development Officers (PDOs). Chairman Standing Committee said that new measures are required for sustainability in the economy, adding that until Industrial Policy is unveiled, benefits cannot be reaped from China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in an effective manner.

He contended that the establishment of Exim Bank is pending since long whereas TDAP''s performance is appalling and suggested that TDAP offices should be shifted to Islamabad. Senator Usman Kakar criticised Chief Minister Punjab Main Shahbaz Sharif for supporting onion import from India at a time when onion crop in Balochistan is ready. He asked Commerce Ministry to set up a laboratory in Balochistan to test minerals. He further stated that two officers'' posts in TDAP, from Balochistan, should be filled immediately.

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