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Approval for draft trade policy sought

Updated February 15, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Commerce Division is seeking approval of the federal cabinet on a draft trade policy for 2018-23 before the PML-N government completes its term.

After approval from the cabinet, the draft policy will be placed before the next government’s cabinet for its implementation. The next government, which will be formed after general election will have the full mandate whether to adopt this policy fully, partially or amend it.

The division has already initiated seeking proposals from all stakeholders since October 2017 and is expected to complete the first draft of the five-year Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF)-2018-23 up to April. The division has received more than 1,000 proposals so far.

The new policy will revolved around eight pillars – institutional strengthening, trade promotion and branding, trade facilitation, marketing access and regional connectivity, services strategy, product development, compliance and gender mainstreaming.

The five-year plan seeks to increase exports to $61bn by 2023

As part of an outreach programme to finalise the draft, Secretary Commerce Younus Dagha said the proposed policy would now also include services, export competitiveness and investment linkages, particularly FDI in the export oriented sectors.

He said integration of local industries into the global value chain will provide equal and better opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Small and medium enterprises will also be part of the new policy, he added.

Mr Dagha further claimed the policy will set the direction of exports on a path of continued recovery and sustainable development, capable of changing the socio-economic profile of the country and bringing positive changes in the living standards of the people.

Since 2009, the government has announced three STPF but most part of these policies remained unimplemented. The export target announced in these policies was also not materialised. The current STPF 2015-18 will complete its term in June 2018.

Despite this hard fact, the new policy also comes up with a claim to increase exports to minimum $36.2bn by the year 2023 and a maximum of $61bn.

The proposed STPF will include three policy initiatives-short, medium and long terms. In short term, measures will be taken for recovering export loss by increasing competitiveness.

In medium term, several measures will be taken for leveraging strength of existing sectors, attract export oriented investment, and encourage product sophistication.

In long term, the focus will be on structural reforms for product diversification into innovation based sectors.

Currently, more than 70 per cent exports are concentrated to three products. The destinations for Pakistani products are also limited as 60pc of total exports landed just in five markets.

The Commerce Division claimed that a double digit growth will be recorded in the remaining months of the current fiscal year. Since June 2017, exports have been witnessed on average 10pc growth.

For improving market access for exporters, negotiations are being pursued vigorously with China, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey on revising terms of FTAs and PTAs. “New PTAs are being initiated with African, South American, and some other countries as well”, he said.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2018