Pakistan should ratify trade facilitation pact: WTO

Updated October 13, 2015

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Over 50 members have already submitted their documents and we are hopeful that others will follow, Agah says.—Courtesy: wto.org
Over 50 members have already submitted their documents and we are hopeful that others will follow, Agah says.—Courtesy: wto.org

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Director General of WTO Frederick Yonov Agah on Monday urged Pakistan to ratify and deposit its instrument of acceptance of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) which is mandatory for the implementation of the treaty.

The senior WTO official is currently in Pakistan to discuss trade-related issues before the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference to be convened in a few months in Kenya.

The ratification of the treaty is essential for implementation as the agreement will be enforced only after two-thirds of the WTO membership deposit their instruments of acceptance before the next ministerial.

“Over 50 members have already submitted their documents and we are hopeful that others will follow,” Agah said.

He said he would encourage Pakistan to sign up to the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA). The treaty will lead to eliminating tariffs on over 200 high-tech products. These represent 7pc of global trade, more than the trade in textiles, apparel, iron and steel combined, he added.

The TFA was adopted at the ministerial conference in Bali in December 2013 which is the first multilateral trade agreement concluded since the establishment of WTO in 1995. Once implemented, it would boost trade volumes for developing and least developed countries and Pakistan can take benefit of the advantage the treaty will offer, Agah said.

Commenting on Pakistan’s trade policy, the deputy director general of WTO said the country can do more to simplify its trade regime and make it more transparent and predictable. He identified a long list of concerns raised by member countries at trade policy review of Pakistan in March 2015 at Geneva.

These concerns include large gap in applied and bound rates, the abolishment of duty-free tariff lines, subsidies in various forms and the lack of notifications particularly those pertaining to agriculture and domestic support.

A particular issue that was raised by most members was the continued use of ad hoc trade policy instruments, such as special regulatory orders (SROs), which undermined the predictability of the trade regime.

Concerns were also raised regarding the high degree of protection afforded to the domestic automobile industry.

Counsellor Trade Policies Review Division WTO Arnee Klau identified various strengths and weaknesses of Pakistan’s trade policy, but he appreciated that the country’s trade policy revolves around tariffs only, as per international standards.

He said the average tariffs of Pakistan are still higher when compared with the regional economies. “This shows that the speed of liberalisation is relatively slow in Pakistan.”

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan said the trade policy review at WTO has helped government to plan future reforms. He assured that the multilateral trading system of the WTO and Doha negotiations are high priority areas for Pakistan.

“We have recently reclaimed $625 million worth of market access in a top export market through a bloodless victory through the WTOs dispute settlement system,” the minister said without mentioning a country or bloc.

Usman Ali Khilji from the TPR Division of the WTO in his presentation on TFA said that Pakistan has already submitted its category A commitments under the agreement.

Published in Dawn, October 13th , 2015

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