Islamabad needs to curtail imports, says Chinese envoy

Published March 30, 2022
This file photo shows China’s Consul General Li Bijian. — White Star/File
This file photo shows China’s Consul General Li Bijian. — White Star/File

KARACHI: China’s Consul General Li Bijian said on Tuesday Pakistan should reduce imports from the largest Asian economy as the bilateral trade is highly skewed against Islamabad.

At a ceremony to mark the beginning of the local assembling of Chinese home appliances brand Midea, Mr Li said the “heavy imbalance” in the bilateral trade is a “problem” that Islamabad should resolve through import substitution.

“You import more and export less, even though my government in collaboration with your government is trying to narrow down the trade deficit. We want to see balanced trade,” he said.

According to import payments data issued by the central bank, almost one-fourth of the total import bill in 2020-21 originated from China alone. In contrast, China’s share in Pakistan’s export rec­eipts was less than 8pc in the same year.

The Chinese diplomat said the trade situation was “not developing as we wish” despite the free trade agreement that allows Pakistan to export more than 300 items to export to China without tariff.

He praised Midea products, saying the brand is “one of the most popular” ones in China. “It’ll narrow down Pakistan’s trade deficit,” he said.

Tri-Angels Electronics Ltd has imported machinery worth $1 million to assemble Midea’s microwave ovens and water dispensers in Pakistan. Since 2018, it has separately invested $2.3m to assemble products of Hisense Electronics, a Chinese brand that makes LED TV sets besides other items.

Speaking to the press, Tri-Angels Electronics CEO Imran Ghani said the company’s capacity to assemble microwave ovens is 500 units a day. Its capacity for assembling water dispensers is 300 pieces a day.

Pakistanis buy about 500,000 water dispensers every year, with household and corporate segments holding a 50pc market share each. The total market for microwave ovens is 700,000 units a year, he said.

The company began assembling water dispensers last week in Karachi. The assembling of microwave ovens will commence in the second week of April, said Mr Ghani.

In the face of tough competition from local and other Chinese brands operating in the white consumer goods industry, the Tri-Angels Electronics CEO plans to play up “product features and design” while keeping retail prices on a par with existing players.

Mr Ghani claimed to enjoy a 5pc share in the LED TV market that, he says, consists of 1.4m units a year. “We’re growing our market share rapidly. Our average revenue growth has been 30pc a year,” he said.

Going forward, the company plans to export its products to the countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation bloc. “We’re holding discussions with Midea, which already has buyers in those countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022

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