KARACHI: Pakistan maintained a trade surplus with all neighbouring countries, except India, in the first two months of 2017-18.

The share of Indian exports to Pakistan increased during the two months despite border tensions and poor diplomatic ties between the two South Asian countries.

But regional trade remained in favour of Pakistan by and large, which is a result of higher exports during the two months. The annual increase in Pakistan’s overall exports in July-August was 11.8 per cent.

Indian exports to Pakistan in the period under review rose 12pc to $216 million. In contrast, Pakistan’s exports to India declined 35.3pc to $58m, resulting in a bilateral trade deficit of $158m.

Exports to Afghanistan rose 66pc to $213.5m in July-August. Imports from the country over the same period amounted to just $15m, resulting in a bilateral trade surplus of more than $198m.

Imports from India growing despite poor diplomatic relations

“Pakistan could get rid of the entire trade deficit if policymakers focused on regional trade. Exports to Afghanistan alone could be worth $5 billion,” said Jawed Bilwani, chairman of the Pakistan Apparel Forum.

He said Pakistan should explore regional markets that offer vast export potential instead of focusing on trade with western countries. He said Iran presents another huge opportunity for Pakistani exporters to grow their share in regional trade.

Pakistan exported goods worth $5m to Iran in July-August, down 17.4pc year-on-year. Imports from the country in 2016-17 amounted to just $236,000.

Exports to Bangladesh during the two months were $105m, up 4pc from a year ago. Imports from Bangladesh grew almost 60pc to $6.5m over the same period.

Pakistan exported goods worth $49.3m to Sri Lanka in July-August, up more than 31pc year-on-year. Imports from the country during the same period increased 21pc to $11.1m.

Therefore, Pakistan witnessed a trade surplus of over $193m with regional economies during the first two months of 2017-18. Its regional exports amounted to $449.6m while imports remained $256m during the period under review.

Imports from India in 2016-17 were $1.6bn against exports of just $408m, reflecting a trade deficit of $1.2bn.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017

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