ISLAMABAD, July 18: The government on Friday announced a number of measures in its trade policy for 2008-09 to improve competitiveness and quality of products, and to develop small and medium sized sector to increase its share in total exports.

The commerce ministry has projected a 15 per cent growth in export proceeds for 2008-09, mostly to be generated from traditional and conventional products in a bid to diversify the exports base.

To facilitate exports to Afghan provinces Paktia (Gardez) and Khost, it has been decided that a customs station at Pakistan-Afghan border would be setup at an appropriate location which would reduce transportation cost and delivery time to this area from Pakistan.

A Halal Certification Board would be established, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, to devise and enforce Halal Standards and certification mechanisms for export of Halal food products.

Currently, exporters setting up slaughter-houses are facilitated by the Export Development Fund (EDF) picking up the first six per cent of the mark-up on investment financing. It has now been decided to enhance this facility and the EDF will, therefore, pick up the first eight per cent or 50 pc of the mark-up which-ever is lesser.

It has now been decided to increase the limit to $ 50,000 from $25,000 worth of samples to foreign buyers in the case of automobiles.

In order to enlarge the ambit of our trade policy, it has been decided that Pakistan would participate in re-negotiations on the list of SAFTA and the Regional Agreement on Trade in Services among the Saarc countries.

The TDAP Act would be amended to revisit the working and structure of the organisation to make it more responsive to exporter’s needs.

It has also been decided that the Trade Development Authority (TDAP) would open an office in the Northern Areas.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock would arrange for SPS controls at Pakistan-China border for certification of cherry and other fruit products meant for export since they are in great demand in the Chinese market.

A study will be conducted jointly by the FBR and the ministry of commerce to quantify the extent of refund of indirect taxes on input cost incurred on manufacturing of merchandise, which will become due on this account.

To promote export of herbal medicines, 50 per cent cost of registration of herbal medicinal products abroad shall be picked up by the government, as done in case of export of pharmaceutical products.

It was announced that the health ministry would draw up a proposal for establishing bio-availability and bio-equivalence laboratories at the National Institute of Health.

Export of free samples up to five per cent of quantity is allowed against exports in the preceding year to pharmaceutical exporters. It has also now been decided to allow exporting companies to send free samples to the extent of 10 per cent of the commercial quantity exported in the preceding year.

This sector would also be allowed to retain 15 pc of their export proceeds.

A committee, comprising ministries of commerce, health, finance and FBR, would work out a detailed proposal for granting pioneer industry status to biotech drugs, which is a high-tech value-added sub-sector of pharmaceuticals.

It has been decided that consultancy services would be arranged through FAO / INFOFISH for aquaculture; peeling shed at Karachi Fish Harbour would be set up in coordination with the TDAP and the Sindh government.

Funding will be arranged through the Public Sector Development Programme, training programme for fishermen in catching of fish would be arranged by the Sindh government.

An initial programme of training for trainers would be arranged in collaboration with the TDAP. These measures would help improve seafood exports.

The initiative of hiring of consultants for benchmarking studies of leather garments exporting units would also be continued on a cost-sharing basis, ministry of industries would set up a wood seasoning plant and NAVTEC would set up a couple of vocational training centres on modern lines to meet deficiencies of wood seasoning plant and skilled labour.

To promote floricultural exports, it has been decided that a Flora Common Facility Centre would be set up in collaboration with the Punjab Government near Lahore; depending on its success, the project would be replicated in other provinces.

An irradiation facility based on the latest E-beam technology would also be set up in Karachi in collaboration with the Sindh government to facilitate export of horticultural products.

It has also been decided that the existing facility of picking up the first six per cent markup rate on loans obtained for cool chain and cold storages for horticulture would be revised to 8pc or 50pc of the prevailing mark-up rate which-ever is lower.The umbrella National Trade Corridor Programme is also making provision for development of a cool chain infrastructure.

Area under rice cultivation is under pressure from other crops and the yield is decreasing as no high yielding basmati variety after “Super Basmati” has been introduced.

The cumulative effect of these two factors could erode the exportable surplus. It is, therefore, proposed that:

The ministry of Food and Agriculture (Minfal) may focus on evolving new varieties and increasing area under rice cultivation. Paddy harvesters and paddy dryers may be provided on matching grant basis in rice growing areas; Minfal will explore the possibility of using Agribusiness Support Fund for this purpose.

Initially for demonstration purposes, four dryers and harvesters would be provided from the EDF to Minfal.

Furthermore, rice farm machinery, namely paddy harvesters and dryers would be importable from India through Wahga by road.

Unhindered import of rice seeds increase disease risks, therefore, all such imports shall undergo strict quarantine measures. For this purpose, the “Seed Act” and other related laws will be amended accordingly.

In order to develop handicraft sector and make it a viable industry, it has been decided that consultants of international repute would be engaged to suggest improvements in the development of handicrafts with a view to achieving a quantum jump in their exports.

Arrangements would be made to expose master craftsmen to international designs and trends.

Eleven new industrial clusters would be established in various cities: For surgical instruments at Sialkot; gloves and personal protective equipment at Sialkot; sports-wear at Sialkot; leather and leather products at Sialkot and Charsadda; sports goods at Sialkot; weaving and textile processing sector at Faisalabad; light engineering sector at Gujranwala; auto parts at Lahore; ceramics at Multan and Hala; ajrak and bangles in Hyderabad / Hala and embroidery in Balochistan.

It has been decided that a system of voluntary pre-shipment inspection and sampling of agro-products for exports would be introduced.

In this regard, lists of concerned products, corresponding standards and accredited labs shall be notified by the commerce ministry after consulting Minfal and the ministry of science.

It has been decided that a Trade Dispute Settlement Organisation, under the administrative control of ministry of commerce, would be set up to deal with trade disputes arising from exports.

It has now been decided to expand the outreach of the National Productivity Organisation (NPO) by funding “training of trainers” for auditors from EDF in production, energy and labour productivity audits.