Exports to Qatar, Saudi Arabia rise despite Covid-19

Updated 26 Jul 2020

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Qatar has allowed imports of Pakistani-origin rice after a ban of more than seven years.
Qatar has allowed imports of Pakistani-origin rice after a ban of more than seven years.

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce informed the National Assembly that exports have seen an upsurge in few countries despite the global economic slowdown since March.

The ministry shared details with the lower house in response to a series of questions demanding explanations on government-led measures towards promoting exports.

In the post-Covid-19 period, exports have seen a sizable increase in two major destinations: Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Despite Covid-19, Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of the top export destinations for Pakistani goods in the Middle East as exports to the peninsula increased by 34 per cent in June.

The volume of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia increased to $2.181 billion in FY20. Exports to Saudi Arabia have seen a consistent increase from $336.9 million in FY17 to $342.08m in FY19 and $446.18m FY20. However, the imports from Saudi Arabia have declined from $3.213bn FY18 to $1.735bn in FY20.

Meanwhile, in the March-June period, exports to Qatar also increased to $50.13m compared to $39.33m in March-June FY19. Over the last few years, Pakistan’s trade with Qatar has increased. In FY20, exports to the country jumped 36pc.

Despite the pandemic, Pakistan’s exports to Qatar have seen an upward trend throughout Feb-June. Exports in June alone increased by 40pc.

Qatar has also allowed import of Pakistani-origin rice after several years of ban after low quality rice consignments were sent to the country back in 2012. So far, Pakistan has exported 4,000 tonnes of basmati rice to Qatar.

Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Singapore was recorded at $679m in FY20 with the trade balance heavily in favor of the latter. Pakistan’s exports to Singapore stood at $52m while imports were recorded at $632m FY20.

Pakistan is also exploring the possibility of setting up an institutional mechanism such as the Joint Trade Committee with Singapore. Such an institutional arrangement will play a key role in deepening trade ties as well as economic diplomacy between the two countries.

Trade between Norway and Pakistan is showing gradual increase with the balance in favor of Pakistan. Pak-Norway bilateral trade has increased from $69.06m in 2013-14 to $81.47m in 2018-19. Pakistan’s exports to the country have increased from $55.16m in 2013-14 to $57.46m in 2018-19.

To promote trade relations and gain access to the Norwegian market, the government has initiated negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states, namely Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Collectively, these countries offer an import market of around $360bn. The government is actively engaging with the EFTA states for concluding an FTA between the two in areas including trade in goods, services, and investment.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s exports to Denmark increased from $102.13m in FY14 to $184.91m in FY19 whereas imports decreased from $176.31m in FY14 to $90.46m in FY19.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s exports to Bangladesh dropped from $752.67m in FY19 to $654.79m FY20. Even though the trade remained in surplus this year, the overall volume, including exports and imports, decreased in the wake of Covid-19.

Read: Pakistan's top export destinations have been devastated by Covid-19. What does it mean for our trade?

The government has included Bangladesh in the List ‘A’ countries since October 2019 facilitating travel of businessmen to Pakistan. However, the Bangladesh government is yet to reciprocate the offer.

Pakistan’s exports to Kyrgyzstan stood at $1.75m in FY20 against $1.81m in the previous year, while imports stood at $0.114m during the year under review. Pakistan’s major exports to Kyrgyzstan are medicament mixtures, razors and razor blades, instruments, and appliances used in medical, surgical, dental, fruit and vegetable juices - unfermented. Pakistan’s major imports from Kyrgyzstan include dried vegetables and live animals.

Draft memorandum of understanding to establish a Joint Working Group to enhance trade cooperation has been shared with the Kyrgyz Republic. However, Kyrgyz side is yet to respond.

The National Assembly was also informed about several measures to promote trade with Japan, Turkey, and China.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020