ISLAMABAD: Recognising the need for a revised trade policy framework, Federal Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that the Ministry of Commerce has finalised the draft and will announce it next month.
Under the new guidelines, the export target had been set at $40 billion annually and “we expect to increase it to $50 billion annually by 2018,” said Khan.
“Nevertheless, this is subject to approval of the federal cabinet and it can increase or decrease.”
He said the government’s focus was on enhancing regional trade and it had welcomed any opportunity to enter into free trade agreements (FTA) with central Asian states in an effort to strengthen trade and commerce.
The Ministry of Commerce is also in the process of introducing sector-specific export development councils to give a boost to trade-related activities.
Khan particularly pointed out that the government was going to start negotiations with Turkey and Thailand for the FTAs and the Thai cabinet had already given its backing in this regard.
Work on second phase of the free trade agreement with China was also under way and these steps would improve market access for Pakistan’s textile products, he said.
Hopefully, he added, FTA with Afghanistan would be finalised during the course of this year.
However, according to the minister, certain groups of the Indian lobby in Afghanistan were actively creating hurdles in the way of finalising the trade agreements, despite the fact that both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were keen on developing bilateral ties.
This lobby, he said, was forcing Pakistan to include India in the trade process, but Islamabad had made it clear to Afghanistan that at present Delhi must be off the table during negotiations or treaty, if any, pertaining to trade between the two countries.
“We have asked Afghanistan to not put any condition for including India in bilateral relations and treaties.”
The minister stated that there was no possibility of trade negotiations with India at least at this stage. At the same time, he pointed out that Pakistan’s relationship with Iran was improving and it had agreed to import Pakistan’s mangoes.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2015.
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