ISLAMABAD: National interests would be fully safeguarded while negotiating free trade agreements (FTA) with Turkey and Thailand and while reviewing it with China. This was the assurance given by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir to the Senate.
Responding to various queries during the question hour, the minister said that the FTAs would not only improve Pakistan’s competitiveness but would also enhance the country’s exports.
Rejecting the impression that Pak-Afghan Transit Trade has shifted to Iran, Dastgir said Afghanistan had made commercial imports through Pak-Afghan Transit Trade during 2014-15 worth $2.25 billion, which was a record.
He conceded that the country was facing a trade deficit during the last three years. In the financial year 2015-16, Pakistan recorded a trade deficit of $23.96 billion as compared to $22.137 billion during the last financial year, reflecting an increase of 8.42%.
He said no study has been conducted in recent years to assess the impact of Pak-Afghan Transit Trade on the manufacturing sector of the country.
Since transit trade is about facilitating Afghan global imports through Karachi port up to Torkham border, the manufacturing sector of Pakistan is not directly involved in, affected by or benefiting through the transit arrangement, said Dastgir.
To another query, he said the prime minister has recently announced a substantive package of Rs180 billion for exporters, which would help raise textile exports substantially.
He said that e-commerce in Pakistan was currently at an initial but evolving stage. “The past few years have seen a rising trend of domestic online shopping owing to the availability of required infrastructure for e-commerce in Pakistan,” he said.
Dastgir also said that the Ministry of Commerce was working on a policy framework for development of e-commerce/digital trade in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2017.
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