ISLAMABAD

Trade Ministers' Council of the D-8 Group on Wednesday agreed to take their trade volume to $500 billion by 2018 from existing $120.5 billion.

The Trade Ministers' Council of the D-8 Group also decided to implement Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) from 1st of July 2016. The understanding to this effect came at a meeting of the Trade Ministers' Council of D-8 group in Islamabad. Delegations of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey attend the meeting.

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir read the 'Islamabad Deceleration' after the meeting. He informed the media that Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria would implement PTA from July this year. Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Egypt would implement PTA after rectifying from their governments, he added.

Sharing details of the eight-point deceleration with the media, he said, "It has been decided to enhance efforts to increase the intra-trade of D-8 member states to 15%-20% of their global trade or about $500 billion by the end of 2018". He further informed that Customs officials of the member countries would convene a meeting within 3 months in view of preparing implementation of D8-PTA rules of origin. Similarly, he added, Supervisory Committee will finalise the dispute settlement document in its special session in Istanbul in May this year.

He said that Islamabad Deceleration encouraged remaining D-8 member states to ratify the D-8 Preferential Trade Agreement as soon as possible. He further informed the meeting also agreed to adopt outcomes of the 3rd Supervisory Committee and 4th Supervisory Committee meetings held in Ankara and Islamabad respectively. According to the declaration, member states were called upon to expand revised offer lists so that private sectors find incentives in trading. The next meeting of Trade Ministers' Council will be held in Malaysia next year.

Earlier, addressing the meeting, commerce minister said that commercial integration among D8 countries would boost development through trade and investment, which could lead to decrease poverty and uplift millions of people to a brighter and mutual prosperous future. He further said that target of enhancing the trade between D8 countries to the level of $500 billion by 2018 was set. "Intra-D-8 trade has been fluctuating in recent years. To rapidly realize the true potential our block possesses, we need to immediately address some outstanding issues, such as operationalisation of D-8 Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), which has been inordinately delayed", the minister said. Sharing economic achievements of the incumbent government, Dastgir said that Pakistan had achieved the seven years highest growth of 4.24 percent in last fiscal year. Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves have gone beyond $20 billion from less than $8 billion of February 2014, he added. Talking about trade policy, the commerce minister said, "Trade policy reforms focus on simplifying tariff rates and phasing out SROs that establish special rates and/or non-tariff barriers in some 4000 product areas. The maximum tariff as a result of this rationalization process has been brought down to 20% with fewer exceptions".

He further informed that Pakistan also has one of the most liberal foreign investment regimes in South Asia. 100% foreign equity is permitted in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors as the country has a market-oriented economy, with a rapidly growing private sector, he added.