ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the prime minister on industries and production Razaq Dawood on Wednesday said that the rising tension between the US and China over trade tariffs was a good sign for Pakistan as “it would place us in a better negotiating position”.
“The prime minister is visiting China on Nov 4 and we will take advantage of this situation by pitching our position as a trade partner,” Mr Dawood said, briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production.
He said the government wanted trade to be more bilateral with China instead of the current unilateral position. Mr Dawood stressed for rationalising import regime to reduce duties over raw material so that the finished products become cheap and competitive.
Responding to a query from the committee’s chairman Ahmed Khan that Pakistani firms were not competent enough to meet the modern day requirements, the adviser to PM said that the main issue regarding award of government contracts was corruption.
“There is corruption and mal-intent in every deal,” he said, adding that it did not mean the engineering base was weak.
The advisor also spoke about the potential benefits and risks concerning the China-Pakistan Economic Corrider (CPEC). “Our industry should prepare to compete with those [risks] in the industrial zones of CPEC, but we will also ensure that our industries are adequately protected,” he said.
Referring to a power plant established under CPEC, Mr Dawood pointed out that even the ladder and furniture in that power plant had been imported from China. “This is not right. We need to provide opportunities for the local industry too,” he added.
He also criticised the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China and said that as a result of concessions granted to China under the agreement, Pakistan was becoming a trading nation.
The committee was informed that imports from China amounted to around $15 billion whereas exports to China from Pakistan were $1.5bn.
“I have asked the Chinese ambassador to raise the imports from Pakistan to at least $2bn. We have highlighted 330 tariff lines out of total 7,500 tariff lines of the customs where we need relaxations,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 4th , 2018