KARACHI  -  Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has sanctioned Rs 13 billion grant for seven combined effluent treatment plants for the industrial estates of Karachi and the work will be started soon in collaboration with Sindh government.

This was revealed by Federal Secretary Commerce Muhammad Younas Dagha at an interactive sessions with the business community representatives from various chambers and associations to get their input for the formulation of five-year trade policy (2018-2023), here on Friday. This programme was organized in collaboration with USAID.

Prominent among the business leaders were Senior Vice President, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Syed Mazhar Ali Nasir, FPCCI Vice Presidents Waheed Ahmed and Syeda Saeeda Bano, former president, Korangi Association of Trade and Industry, Masood Naqi, former vice president FPCCI Gulzar Feroz,   President,  Dadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ghulam Mustafa Solangi, Shamsul Islam Khan.

The interactive sessions would continue on Saturday here, wherein representatives from 42 small chambers and joint chambers, and academia had been invited. Such sessions would also be arranged in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and other cities of the country to get complete input from the business community for the five trade policy. The Federal Secretary Commerce said that the exports of the country were expected to cross the figure of dollars 23 billion by the end of this current financial year. In last three months, the exports had increased up to 11 percent.

He said the Ministry of Commerce had focused on export of non-traditional goods and on search of new markets.He said a five-year trade policy was being formed after due consultation with all stakeholders to make practical and result-oriented as it would be enjoying  ownership from private sector along with the government.

For promotion of exports,  the Ministry of Commerce had planned a “ Buyers Conference”  in Islamabad in February 2018 to learn about, what type of goods and services they are interested to purchase from Pakistan.

“For the first time, buyers conference is being held. In the past, exporters or importers conferences were being held,” he remarked.

The government was engaged in dialogue with different states of South America to sign preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements .  Proper input from FPCCI and other major chambers would be taken to design these PTAs and FTAs, he said.

Muhammad Younas Dagha observed that fiscal policy had not proved supportive for the exports. The investors felt more incentives in other areas especially real estate and energy sectors. He said the commercial banks were aversive to provide loans to farmers and to agro-based industries.

Responding to the observation by Karachi Chamber’s Shamul Islam Khan, the Secretary Commerce agreed that devaluation of Pakistan’s currency against dollar was not productive to the economy in the long term. However, he said, artificial appreciation of the currency was also not good for the economy, but it should be realistic.

He informed the meeting that the Ministry of Commerce had sent the required material/update on GSP Plus to all the chambers and trade bodies. And, he added, a seminar on GSP plus would be soon be held to apprise the industrialists and exporters of the issues relating to this market facility granted by European Union.

Former president KATI, Masood Naqi urged that truly professional Commercial Counselors, having full information about the local and foreign markets, be appointed to promote the exports.  They also be given clear targets in this regard, he said.

He proposed for formation of a high-powered platform – with representations from all concerned ministries and government organizations- with which the business community through their chambers/associations could interact and partner for the promotion of trade and investment.

To concern shown by the exporters that Pakistan had lost Iran’s potential market for many products including fruits, the Commerce Secretary said the government was seriously working for promoting trade with Iran and exploring all possible means. Due to sanctions from United States, the banks were hesitant to open banking facilities in Iran and now only solution with Pakistan was, to engage in barter trade.

Pakistan had forwarded its proposal of barter trade model to Iran and in February 2018, a meeting would be held to devise the model.

To a complaint by FPCCI Vice President Syeda Saeeda Bano that women entrepreneurs were not dully supported and facilities by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), Younas Dagha said the Ministry of Commerce was preparing a national exporters’ training program and that women entrepreneurs should benefit for their grooming.

TDAP’s Secretary told that up to 800 new exporters including women would also be given this training.

FPCCI Vice President Waheed Ahmed sought the Ministry of Commerce’s support to the proposed conference on horticulture in March in Lahore and the Secretary assured full participation of his ministry.

President, Dadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ghulam Mustafa Solangi criticised the performance of Sindh Small Industries Corporation and urged that SMEs and cottage industries should be extended the support from the Central and provincial governments to tap their huge potential towards economic prosperity.