ISLAMABAD: In efforts to improve signed Free Trade Agreements (FTA) And Preferential Trade Agreements (PTA), Pakistan has completed consultation and deliberation with China and Indonesia for revision in agreements. The revision of the trade agreements with the two countries will be completed within next two months.
Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile Industry, which met on Monday, Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha claimed that during the bilateral meetings, China has accepted demands set by Pakistan to relax rules for Pakistani products in order to increase exports. “We will be making a progress in this regard by the end of this month,” he said adding similar negotiations with Indonesia for revision of existing PTA were also in advance stages.
After signing PTA with Indonesia, the import of palm oil drastically increased from Indonesia reducing imports of the same from Malaysia. “Pakistan’s demand of quota-free export of rice to Malaysia, with which Pakistan has already signed FTA in 2008, has been accepted,” he added. Malaysia offered concession to Pakistan on 10593 tariff lines out of which 74 percent enjoy zero duty since 2015. However, rice was placed on the no concession list by Malaysia.
He said negotiations for FTA with Iran were also under process in a very friendly atmosphere as both sides are ready to give concessions. He said the two countries have also entered into Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to recognise standards of goods to be traded across the borders. “Iranian quarantine inspectors will soon be visiting Pakistan to formulate mutually agreed standard of goods for imports and exports,” he said.
He admitted that unchecked imports of food items were not only increasing import bill but they were also damaging local crop especially in Sindh and Balochistan. “The ministry has held a meeting with the ministry of food and science and technology to resolve the issue at ports and ensure strict inspection of quality as per set rules,” he added.
During the meeting, Senator Robina Khalid criticised Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) for its poor performance. She said that the ministry was wasting resources on useless seminars, workshops and other events. The chairman directed the ministry to improve capacity building of TDAP to run the department on modern lines.
The secretary also informed that a data centre was being established under TDAP to compile sector wise trade data independently.
He said it the centre would not only compile national but will also collect international data to get comparative data with other countries.
Regarding inflow of investment under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Shibli Faraz questioned investment entry routes into the country. The secretary added that most of the machinery is being imported hence China is transferring money directly to the companies.
The meeting was also informed that the ministry was planning to establish new councils in leather, rice, and pharmaceuticals to further promote Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The chairman directed to also focus on engineering sector of the country as this sector had always been neglected. He said Pakistan could not only become self-sufficient in engineering sector but also could export engineering goods.
In reply to a query, Dagha claimed that since the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has given a policy guideline, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) could not impose regulatory duties on import items without consultation with the ministry of commerce.
The meeting of the committee was presided over by Senator Shibli Faraz and was attended by Senators Mufti Abdulsatar, Robina Khalid, Haji Saifullah Bangish, and Naseema Ehsan.