ALI KUNDI

ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan's exports are expected to touch $23 billion benchmark during current fiscal year due to the prudent trade policies of the incumbent government, said Secretary Commerce Muhammad Younus Dagha on Wednesday.

"Exports are showing healthy increase during ongoing fiscal year and expected to increase to $23 billion," the secretary said while addressing consultative session on the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2018-2023 in Islamabad.

The ministry held consultation meeting Wednesday under the chair of Younus Dagha for the next five years STPF by taking inputs from the relevant stakeholders.  Pakistan's exports had started increasing during ongoing financial year after continuously tumbling in last three to four years.

The exports fell to $20.448 billion in financial year 2016-17 registering a 15.75 percent decline as compared to its previous year. However, exports had shown healthy growth of 11.11 percent during first seven months (July-January) of the ongoing fiscal year and recorded at $12.97 billion.

The secretary reiterated that exports would increase the $23 billion benchmark by the end of current financial year.

The government is working to make fresh STFP tangible after failing to achieve the results from the current STFP. The government through the STPF 2015-18 had set ambitious annual export target of $35 billion by June 30, 2018 through improving export competitiveness.

However, the exports would remain at around $23 billion by the end of June this year.

Younus said that government would increase the country's trade in the next trade policy. "The government has initiated discussion for the new trade policy for next five years," said Dagha.

Talking about new trade policy, the secretary said that government is formulating long, medium and short term trade policy for the period of five years to achieve the benefit from the incentives announced in STPF 2018-23.

He said that government would give incentives to small and medium enterprises. "The major focus of STPF will be upon boosting exports in the technology and services sector, competitiveness and investment linkages, particularly attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the export related industry and integration of local industry into global value chain," he added.

Sharing trade diplomacy of the incumbent government, the secretary said that Pakistan had successfully received incentives from China and Indonesia.

Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Vice President Karim Aziz said that Pakistan's exports had reduced to $20 billion in last fiscal year from $25 billion of five years before.

He recommended that the government should reduce the cost of production to enhance exports. Power tariff for industries is 22 percent higher in Pakistan as compared to the other countries.

He said that government should also reduce the taxes and duties on the export oriented sectors of the country.

Aziz said that government should implement the conventions of the United Nations on Human, Minorities And Labour Rights as well as good governance for retaining GSP plus status given by the European Union.

He demanded that government should also provide equal opportunities to Pakistani investors in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it is giving to the Chinese investors.

Similarly, he said that government should give the new Export Processing Zone to the private sector. "The government should keep business community on board in taking decisions regarding CPEC Projects," the FPCCI vice president demanded.