ISLAMABAD -  Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan on Thursday told Senate Standing Committee on Textile Industry that despite diplomatic tension between Pakistan and India, the trade regime had not been changed by the government.

He was speaking in response to the issue raised by the Committee Chairman Senator Mohsin Aziz that a huge quantity of raw cotton had been stopped at the Karachi port. He said the government had not issued any notification in this regard. However, he said that the government had put restriction on import of 500,000 cotton bales in a year through Wagah border, while there was not any such restriction on Karachi port.

Mohsin urged that the government should instead ban the value added products from the neighboring country in a bid to protect the local textile industry. The meeting was informed that local textile industry was in a dilapidated condition and its exports were on a declining trend due to a number of issues including high prices of gas and electricity, high tariffs on import of input materials for industries, restructuring of loans with banks and revival of sick units.

Mian Lateef from Chen One group told the committee that due to these certain issues, 40 industries in Khurrianwala industrial estate were closed which resulted in not only sharp decline in industrial sector export but also abandoning 400,000 jobs. He said if the government resolves the issue of restructuring of bank loans of these industrialists, the units would be revived and it would help in surging of textile exports by about $3 billion annually and producing one million employment opportunities.

He said the industrialists did not want to be written off their loans but they want to restructure the loans so that the industrialists could stand on their own feet and revive their industries.

On the occasion, the minister said that the industrialists should come up with a mechanism to separate the wilful and unfulfill defaulters and also determine the sustainable and unsustainable industries so that the government could facilitate them easily. He said the government was committed to resolve all the genuine issues of the textile industrialists and it had already fulfilled a number of demands of the industrialists including provision of uninterrupted electricity and gas to the industry.

The meeting decided to hold another meeting in Karachi to resolve the issue of banking sector with the textile industry in which representatives from textile industry, State Bank of Pakistan, National Bank of Pakistan and private banks would be invited. A representative of textile sector, however, pointed out that the electric and gas prices in the country were not competitive as compared to that of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. He said the government, in the next budget, is planning to allow all key input material used for exports including machinery as duty free in order to boost the exports of the country.

Senator Nehal Hashmi pointed out that some industrialists were named in the Exit Control List (ECL) and they were not even allowed to go abroad and meet with their clients. The committee recommended to exclude the names of the industrialists from ECL. The meeting was also attended by Senators Khushbakht Shujaat, Hamza, Mir Nematullah Zehri, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Nisar Muhamamd Khan and other officials of Textile Ministry.