ISLAMABAD -  The government would revise the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF), which has failed to enhance the country’s tumbling exports that resulted in massive trade deficit.

Previously, the government had announced three years STPF with aim to enhance the country’s exports to $35 billion by the end of June 2018. However, the government had failed to enhance tumbling exports, which are likely to remain at around $21 billion by the end of current fiscal year. The country’s trade deficit has already touched historic level of $30 billion during 11 months (July-May) of the ongoing financial year due to massive increase in imports and continuous decline in exports.

Imports increased by 20.6 percent to $48.54 billion during July-May of FY2017 from $40.25 billion of the last year. However, the exports tumbled by 3.13 percent to $18.51 billion in 11 months of the current fiscal year from $19.14 billion of the same period of the previous year.

Even, the prime minister’s incentive package worth of Rs180 billion for exports oriented sectors had also failed to enhance the exports. The opposition political parties and business community have already shown concerns on the massive increase in trade deficit and asked the government to revise its trade policy.

“Commerce Ministry is working on revising the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF)”, said Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan in a meeting with a delegation of Asian Development Bank (ADB) led by its senior adviser Warner Liepach. The meeting was also attended by Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha.

He further said that the government is providing incentives to exporters to boost up exports of the country. The government is taking measures to address the issues of the exporters. “Reimbursement of tax refunds and payment of funds under PM package is top priority,” he said and added that the commerce ministry is focused on reimbursement of tax refunds and payment of funds under PM package to boost exporter’s confidence.

He informed Warner that the commerce ministry will soon introduce law on geographical indication. He said that before the end of this year the Ministry of Commerce will launch a campaign for the international brand marketing of Pakistan. “Pakistan needs hand holding institutions for Small and Medium Enterprises to help them to become exporters”, he added.

ADB senior adviser Warner Liepach said that in cooperation with the commerce ministry a comprehensive report will be prepared which will consist of recommendations regarding governance, policy and coordination among different ministries. He further said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif first phase of reforms in power sector has been successfully completed and now the ADB is focusing on other sectors of Pakistan economy.

PBIF asks govt to revisit whole export strategy

INP: President Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF) and senior vice chairman of the Businessmen Panel of FPCCI Mian Zahid Hussain on Wednesday said government can end dependence on the IMF only if exports and imports are balanced.

Widening export-import gap has become a threat, therefore, government should immediately re-examine export strategy, cost of doing business should be reduced for the export sector and taxes should be slashed to step fall of the external sector which has endangered the country, he said.

Mian Zahid Hussain said that trade deficit of the first 11 months has touched all time high mark of thirty billion dollars while the debt repayments will further aggravate the overall situation. He said that exports have registered further decline. Exports stood at 18.54 billion dollars in the first eleven months of the current fiscal which were 19.14 billion dollars a year ago. Export earnings need to, more or less, match the import bill to reduce foreign dependence, he said, adding that exports can be enhanced by changing the direction of the economy and focusing on industrial expansion with special attention to the value addition.

Moreover, he said, government should try to reduce cost of doing business, improve GDP to investment ratio, announce tax breaks, and spare existing taxpayers while try to expand the tax net. He said that all the countries of the region have changed their policies to make their export sector competitive through innovation, research, education, and by finding new markets but nothing concrete has been done in Pakistan. The business leader said that our government should persuade China to increase imports from Pakistan to reduce deficit.