The Ministry of Commerce and Textile has revealed that three member countries are blocking Pakistan's entry to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, which is hampering investment and trade relations with member countries. "Singapore under the influence of India while Philippines and Vietnam due to our policies towards China are opposing and blocking Pakistan's entry to the ASEAN plus six, which could otherwise improve investment and trade relations," said Joint Secretary Commerce Division Nazim Latif while briefing a parliamentary panel here on Wednesday.
The sub-committee of National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile met with Convener Sajida Begum in the chair to discuss and suggest ways and means for proper implementation of Trade Organization Act, 2013 for ensuring appropriate representation of all genders and business sectors in business activity in the country. The ministry official said that it is mandatory to have consent of all the 10 members of ASEAN to become member of the bloc; however Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam are opposing Pakistan, making it difficult for the country to become dialogue partner of the bloc enjoying the benefits of free trade agreements (FTAs). Latif further said that Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and others are supporting Pakistan. To get benefits, Pakistan is trying to improve relations on bilateral basis and, therefore, revisiting FTAs with them.
The committee directed the Commerce Ministry to prepare a report and brief the panel on the ASEAN issue and also decided to take briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the regard. The officials informed the committee that due to hectic efforts Pakistan got two years extensions in the EU GSP plus status. The committee directed to present the whole record and performance of commercial councilors in the next meeting.
The committee members revealed that women chambers of commerce are being misused. The committee recommended that there should have been checks and balances and audit for issuance of license and registration, while amendments to the law should be proposed to restrict fake membership. The committee recommended the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for starting awareness campaign and facilitating businesswomen to become members of the chambers. Further a policy should be devised to give exemption from filing returns to the new starters for three years. The panel also recommended for 70 percent subsidies to women on their participation in international exhibition, besides giving them proper representation in delegations.
Earlier briefing the committee Samina Fazil, founder President Women Chamber Islamabad said that most of the businesswomen do not want to get NTN and become member of chambers, fearing harassing language by FBR in notices and penalty threats. She further said that there is no facilitation from the government side on participation in international exhibition. She further proposed that there should be a fix token amount for small businesses instead of filing return which would generate huge taxes. Samina Fazil also proposed that that there should be one female member in the Export Development Board (EDB). The committee supported the proposals and recommended the government to facilitate businesswomen.