ISLAMABAD: The commerce ministry on Friday finalised five-year Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) draft with measures to diversify exports from traditional sectors to high quality and globally-competitive engineering products.

The announcement came following a review meeting led by Adviser to PM on Commerce Razak Dawood to discuss the framework at the Commerce Division.

“The final STPF draft will be placed before the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet shortly”, the adviser said while adding that the draft is being reviewed by stakeholders.

In March, PM Imran Khan had asked the Commerce Division for early finalisation of five-year STPF and Textile Policy in consultation with stakeholders to make it more inclusive for boosting exports.

PM Khan had directed the Commerce Division to finalise the draft five-year plan with a deadline of Dec 31, 2018 to accelerate exports. However, the division failed to prepare a plan within the said time, missing the deadline by almost one-and-a-half year.

Under the proposed STPF 2020-25, special focus has been directed to increase exports of textile, leather, surgical and sports goods, carpet, rice and cutlery were included along with non-formal and development sectors like engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, auto parts, process food and beverages, footwear, gem and jewelry, chemicals, meat and poultry, seafood, marble and granite.

Dawood said that Pakistan is rapidly diversifying its exports into high quality and globally-competitive engineering products.

While discussing the policy, he said that one of the objectives of the STPF is to achieve diversification of exports in products other than the traditional ones. He said the exports of new products especially engineering and pharmaceuticals sectors will be promoted.

“We are going to reduce our reliance on five traditional export sectors—textile, sports, surgical, carpet and leather”, he said, adding that this approach of diversifying exports has also been supported in the Budget 2020-21 through reduction of import duties on raw materials and tariff rationalisation.

Talking about the emerging sectors for export opportunities, Dawood said the country’s engineering products, especially home appliances are now producing internationally-competitive products.

He added that in pursuance of the diversification policy, the export of microwave ovens from Pakistan has been confirmed for the first time by Dawlance.

He said that with government support, other engineering products will soon follow suit. In this regard, duties on import of television components have been reduced to promote local manufacturing.

The adviser was optimistic that the results of the first-ever Mobile Phone Manufacturing Policy recently announced by the government would soon become visible in the coming months in the form of an increase in exports of locally-manufactured mobile devices from the country.

In the last decade, the Commerce Division has notified three STPFs in 2009-12, 2012-15 and 2015-18, but none of these were successful in achieving desired objectives due to various reasons. Moreover, past policies also failed to alter the export paradigm over last decade.

The 2009-10 STPF failed mainly due to mismanagement, whereas the 2012-15 framework suffered at the hands of government’s failure to release the allotted funds.

Further, the 2015-18 STPF was announced after a delay of more than nine months and suffered from financial crunch as the government only released Rs500 million of the total budget of Rs20 billion leading to poor implementation.

The ultimate target of the last STPF was to enhance the country’s annual exports to $35bn by 2017-18.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2020