ISLAMABAD - Former advisor to the prime minister on finance Dr Salman Shah Thursday recommended the government to create National Integrated Logistic Authority (NILA) to take forward transportation and logistic infrastructure chain.

Dr Salman Shah, while addressing China Pakistan Economic Corridor International Logistic Forum organized by National Logistic Cell (NLC), proposed NILA should be created for the initial transition before the private firms were capable of taking over the lead role in the logistic industry.

He said Pakistan should improve its financial governance, particularly relating to CPEC and the government should reconsider Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China. At the same time, he said the government should also start working on development of East-West infrastructure in the country apart from existing too much focus on South-North development.

Salman Shah said that that Pakistan should take advantage of a big Chinese economy like Turkey benefited from Europe and Mexico from the US. He said that Pakistan should target to expand national economy between $700 billion to $1 trillion, aim for creating at least 25 million jobs and secure a minimum of 5 percent share in China’s foreign exports.

Dr Safdar Sohail, Executive Director General of the ministry of commerce and head of CPEC Centre of Excellence of the Planning Commission, said China had not made any progress to facilitate Pakistani services and did not create demand for Pakistani goods and even its liberalisation did not suit Pakistan. He said Pakistan should engage with Chinese authorities and Chinese should also take their own initiatives to remove non-trade barriers to Pakistani products and services for which openness in China was very crucial.

Dr Safdar said China had a narrative of international integration and shared development along One Belt One Road and CPEC initiative but trade integration was very limited. Pak-China FTA was very shallow and even foreign direct investment envisaged balance of payment challenges.

“Seamless supply chain and smooth functioning of port and border facilities under the CPEC were very important but Pakistan should focus more on expanding export of services,” he maintained. He said Pakistan’s services trade deficit was over $2.5 million last year which should be minimized because export of Pakistani goods was not expected to pick up any time soon because of global challenges and domestic structural issues.

He said the absence of an industrial policy in Pakistan was also a cause of concern and the industry was generally in a state of disarray. He said the government should ensure through use of regulations and incentives that Pakistan logistic service industry from shipping to trucking was upgraded but it should be made part of contracts for creation of jobs and joint ventures with local partners for international operators to secure business opportunities.

Safdar called upon Chinese authorities to meet its commitments for creation of additional demand in China for Pakistani exports saying it was not taking steps in that direction at present. At the same time, China should also remove NTBs for Pakistani firms and service operators.

The two countries, he said, should redirect cargoes to Gwadar even if it was expensive initially, he proposed. He said the government of Pakistan should create more space for public sector logistic operations and give trade, exports and transportation services due focus as part of CPEC.