ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce has stepped up efforts to explore new markets and increase the export of value-added goods.
Under the new market initiative, the seventh round on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand is scheduled to be held on March 7 in Bangkok. Both sides have already completed the text of the agreement and shared their initial request lists and tariff reduction modalities. The first round of FTA negotiations was held in September 2015 in Bangkok.
On the FTA with Turkey, both sides have held five rounds of negotiations to remove trade barriers. This FTA covers trade in goods and services and a chapter on investment.
The fifth round of the Pakistan-Turkey FTA negotiations was held in December 2016. However, no date was given to finalise this agreement.
To initiate an FTA with South Korea, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea and the Ministry of Commerce in April 2014. It was agreed that both sides would conduct a joint feasibility study to explore the possibility of an FTA.
Both sides have completed their respective studies and are now in the process of formulating joint recommendations. Under the same MoU, a Joint Trade Commission was also established and its first meeting was held in Seoul on June 8, 2015.
Efforts are being made to conclude a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Afghanistan. The draft of the Pak-Afghan PTA was shared with Afghanistan in January 2015. The response from Afghanistan is still awaited, the official said.
Pakistan and Mercosur, a South American sub-regional bloc, signed a framework agreement on July 20, 2006. Its full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its associate countries are Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname.
As per the agreement, both sides agreed to negotiate a PTA leading to an FTA.
In December 2013, 2014 and 2016, the Ministry of Commerce requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to approach the Mercosur secretariat for the resumption of talks. Its response is still awaited.
The Pakistan-Argentina Joint Trade Committee was set up in 2004. So far, two meetings of the committee have been held. On the proposal of the Argentinean government, the Ministry of Commerce has obtained approval from the federal cabinet to start negotiations to sign the subject MoU.
All relevant stakeholders have concurred with the text of the MoU, which has been forwarded to the Argentinean side through MoFA.
The PTA was signed during a D-8 summit in Bali in May 2006. It came into force on August 25, 2011. All actions required to be taken on part of Pakistan, like notifying and sharing of the concession list with other D-8 member-countries, stand completed.
Being a multilateral agreement, it has not become effective so far for incomplete formalities, like the ratification and submission of offer lists by some of the member-states.
Published in Dawn February 17th, 2017