KARACHI, Aug 21: Minister of State and Export Promotion Bureau Chairman Tariq Ikram has cautioned the business community about the challenges and impending developments that will take place during the quota free era starting from January 1, 2005.

Addressing a large gathering at a dinner hosted by the United Marine Agencies for visiting director of Ellerman, David Barbour, on Wednesday, he said that it would totally change the complex of the world’s clothing and textile market as it would suddenly become a buyers’ market.

The state minister said norms of business would have to be changed and local attitude and habits would have to forego. He suggested that the business community should adopt international norms of business to compete in the world market.

Mr Tariq said that competitive edge did not totally depend on cost factor alone, rather it came from customs service that meant quality, prompt delivery and efficiency. He further said that issues like social compliance, child labour and environment would crop up. It is the customers who will assert pressure not to buy goods from a country who uses child labour or do not meet the environmental standards in the industry, he added.

Therefore, he said all issues related to price and social compliance would be of secondary nature and the customers’ service would play pivotal role in capturing markets.

A crucial era will open up on January 1, 2005, when the Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) will come to an end and tough competition will be met as each country will endeavour to capture markets at the cost of other, he maintained.

But it was encouraging, he said, that “our textile industry lately has undergone into massive Balancing, Modernization and Replacement (BMR) as well as expansion and it seems that our exporters will be comfortably placed in the quota free market.”

The EPB chief said exports were very crucial for the country’s progress because enhanced exports created demand and demand created investment resulting in more jobs and well being of masses.

Mr Ikram appreciated the European Union for giving market access and duty-free imports of textiles at such a time when Pakistan was hit by catastrophe of 9/11, Afghan war and lately Iraq. As a result of these concessions, he said the country earned more foreign exchange to the tune of $300 million from exports to EU member states.

He also briefly gave a review of last four year’s economic performance of the country and said an economic turn-around had been achieved and all the macroeconomic indicates were now on sound footings. The GDP growth has improved to 4.5 per cent, inflation has been contained between two and three per cent and reserves have increased over $11 billion.

Appreciating the services of the German shipping company — Hamburg Sud Group — which has taken over the container service of Ellerman, the minister said that it had promoted Pakistan’s exports to European countries even at a time when most of other shipping companies stopped their services on war fear.

He said Pakistan’s trade is mainly with the US and EU countries and around 28 per cent of total trade is with Europe which grew by 23 per cent last fiscal (2002-03). Mr Tariq acknowledged that Hamburg Sud did made a lot of contribution in promoting Pakistan’s exports to the West by providing promoted service.

Sohail Shams, CEO of the United Marine Agencies, on the occasion said that David Barbour had especially flow to Pakistan to commemorate and reinforce Ellerman’s continuing commitment towards its clients.

David Barbour reassured that Ellerman would continue to serve Pakistan’s trade with reliable and direct container shipping services to facilitate and boost its export trade.