ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s exports to its nine regional countries plunged over 5.7 per cent in the nine months of the current fiscal year due to the impact of Covid-19, data of the State Bank of Pakistan showed on Monday.
The country’s exports to these countries — Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives — account for a small amount of $2.788 billion, which is just 14.91pc of Pakistan’s total global exports of $18.688bn in 9MFY21.
China tops the list of countries in terms of Pakistan’s exports to its neighbours, leaving other populous countries India and Bangladesh behind. Pakistan carried out its border trade with the farther neighbour Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives via sea only.
On the other hand, the country’s trade deficit with the region narrowed slightly during the period under review as imports from these countries also dipped.
Pakistan’s exports to China rebounded and posted positive growth during July-March 2020-21. The bulk of the share of regional exports, which accounts for 50.46pc is for China while the remaining is for eight countries.
Pakistan’s exports to China posted growth of 8.4pc to $1.407bn in 9MFY21 from $1.298bn in 9MFY20. The increase in export proceeds was noted in the post-Covid period. However, it is not clear now whether the gain is one time or it is the outcome of the Ministry of Commerce claims to have brokered preferential market access for local products under the second phase of the free trade agreement with Beijing.
Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan fell 5.57pc to $746.328m in 9MFY21 from $790.377m in 9MFY20. A few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination after the United States.
The imports from Afghanistan have seen visible improvement especially of essential kitchen items — tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and fresh and dried fruits.
The country’s exports to India plunged 90.5pc to $2.197m this year from $23.167m in 9MFY20. Exports to India plunged by a whopping 90.8pc to $28.644m in whole FY20 from $311.958m over FY19. The government has suspended trade relations with New Delhi.
Recently, the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet approved import of cotton yarn and sugar from India via a land route but the same decision was reversed by federal cabinet leaving no chances of revival of trade with India. In the post-Covid, government has only allowed import of pharmaceutical products from India.
The exports to Iran jumped 374pc to $0.261m in 9MFY21 from $0.055m in 9MFY20. Most of the trade with Tehran is carried out through informal channels in border areas of Balochistan.
Exports to Bangladesh decreased 13.56pc to $438.418m in 9MFY21 from $574.038m. Islamabad has recently reached out to Dhaka to revive talks to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Similarly, exports to Sri Lanka dipped by 24.2pc to $185.883m in 9MFY21from $245.131m in the previous year. Islamabad has signed the first-ever FTA with Colombo but trade between the two countries remains far behind its true potential.
In the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Sri Lanka both countries agreed to exploit the available potential of bilateral trade.
On the other hand, exports to Nepal plunged by 82.6pc to $3.502m in 9MFY21 from $20.178m the previous year while those to the Maldives dipped by 28.96pc to $4.044m from $5.693m. The export proceeds to Bhutan was recorded at $0.043m in 9MFY21 as against $0.094m over the last year. In the month of March, no exports proceeds were sent to Maldives.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021