ISLAMABAD: The National eCommerce Council (NeCC) on Tuesday decided to develop a five-year roadmap and action plan to promote digital trade.

The decision was reached in the council’s 9th meeting, which was chaired by Commerce Minister Jam Kamal Khan.

Various sector representatives also made presentations to highlight impediments to promoting e-commerce.

It was decided that the new cross-sectoral policy would be presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar before the budget session.

To achieve this short deadline, the commerce minister directed the formation of two to three working groups with clear Terms of Reference (TORs), including a group focused on the payments system.

The minister’s directive for a five-year framework comes just as the national budget is set to be announced on June 7. Many experts say it is unlikely that a policy will be developed in such a short period.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) representative briefed the NeCC on the performance of the Pakistan Trade Portal (PTP). The portal currently registers 3,555 sellers and 1,342 buyers and lists 8,345 products across 34 cities.

The minister appreciated the TDAP effort to register clients on the PTP in the last three to four months and recommended linking it with other portals to further facilitate clients’ registration.

Secretary Commerce Sualeh Ahmed Farooqui introduced the upcoming Export Readiness Programme (ERP), which aims to train and counsel small businesses to expand their export markets. The initiative is believed to enhance Pakistan’s export capabilities.

Earlier in the meeting, the Director General (Services) provided an overview, setting the stage for a series of presentations on various facets of the e-commerce landscape in Pakistan. The focus was on leveraging technology to enhance market access and competitiveness.

The State Bank of Pakistan representative presented the current state of digital payment systems, emphasising the need for a robust and secure payment infrastructure to support e-commerce growth.

The Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) discussed the challenges faced by the IT sector and proposed strategies for its growth.

The chain store association and the first-ever bank-backed e-commerce platform, AlfaMall, also highlighted the dynamics of B2C retail e-commerce in Pakistan, providing insights into consumer behaviour and market trends. It also highlighted its potential to revolutionise online retail in Pakistan.

The meeting also reviewed significant achievements since the approval of the National eCommerce Policy in October 2019.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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