ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called upon the government to revise free trade agreements (FTAs) and preferential trade agreements (PTAs) signed with various countries in order to improve exports and trade competitiveness of Pakistan.

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Atif Ikram Sheikh has said that as per latest data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan’s exports during July-August 2016 have fallen by 8.19 percent as compared to same period of previous year due to which country’s trade balance has widened by 27.28 percent. He said countries normally sign FTAs and PTAs in order to increase market access for their exports and enhance their trade competitiveness. However, FTAs and PTAs signed by Pakistan with different countries have mostly led to increase in import of subsidized consumer goods and exposure of domestic industry, especially SMEs, to unfair competition.

He said Pakistan has signed FTAs with China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and FTAs with Iran, Indonesia and Mauritius, but these trade deals have not achieved the desired results as yet. He said Pakistan was now striving for signing a free trade agreement with Thailand. However, he stressed that the main objective of free or preferential trade agreements should be to save domestic industry from negative implications and to boost the country`s exports, trade competitiveness and value-addition to domestic manufacturing industry that would lead to creation of more jobs and reduction in unemployment as well.

He said a cursory analysis of FTAs and PTAs shows that Pakistan has historically failed to negotiate favorable terms for its exports, with several high potential export items receiving no concessions. He emphasized that government should sign all free and preferential trade agreements after thorough consultation with stakeholders to achieve optimum results from such deals for the country and to save the local industry from any damaging consequences of such trade agreements.