LAHORE - Federal Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim has said that through active trade diplomacy government is trying to get better market access for the local businesses in international markets by concluding FTAs and PTAs with a number of countries.

The Federal Minister was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar, Vice President Mian Abuzar Shad, former Presidents Mian Anjum Nisar, Mian Misbahur Rehman, Mian Muzaffar Ali, Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, former Senior Vice Presidents Abdul Basit, Tahir Javaid Malik former Vice Presidents Aftab Ahmad Vohra, Shafqat Saeed Piracha and Saeeda Nazar, Agha Saidain of Tanners Association and Amjad Ali Jawa also spoke o the occasion. The issues came under discussion included: under-invoicing, duty on raw materials from India, decline in leather export ban on export of poultry to Afghanistan.

The Minister said that the government was initiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Russian Federation, Central Asian countries, Iran, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Sri Lanka.

He said that other market access initiatives includes, ECO Trade Agreement, Pakistan-India Trade Normalization Process, SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services and Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area.

He said that government had already announced a number of incentives to boost exports such as concessionary financing, duty free import of raw materials under temporary importation scheme/duty tax remission on exports (DTRE), duty drawback scheme, concessions in duty/taxes on import of machinery, raw material of priority export sectors and development of export clusters.

He said that the government was fully aware of the countless challenges faced by the exporters in the face of the severe competition that required improvement in exports and expansion in export basket duly supported by competitive prices and excellent quality.

He said that the scope for agricultural products export is quite vast. However, Pakistan has been unlucky to make any significant headway due to complicated regime of sanitary and phyto-sanitary (PSP) requirements of the WTO. He said that it was collective responsibility of all the stakeholders to move forward in complying with these commitments to get maximum benefit. 

While calling for an active two-way region-specific and sector-specific detailed public-private dialogue before the Strategic Trade Policy Framework for 2012-15 is finalised, the LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar stressed the need for ensuring effective execution of National Trade Facilitation Strategy in close coordination with all the stakeholders.

He said that the government should expand market access by entering into FTAs and PTAs with countries where it has comparative competitive advantage.

The LCCI President proposed creation of country-level and regional FTA/PTA Advisory Council involving private sector and govt officials for exploring all avenues.

He said that regional trade should become a pillar of the Strategic Trade Policy Framework for 2012-15 as it is economically efficient. The recent thaw in Pakistan and India trade relations and reciprocal MFN status will help the cause of greater regional trade.

South Asia is home to one of the largest consumer markets in the world in terms of size. Trade within SAARC is merely 5pc – 6pc of their total world trade whereas trade within ASEAN stands around 25pc and is expected to increase to 40pc by 2015. 

He said that the LCCI fully supports an increased regional trade but it should not be at the expense of local industry which is already under severe pressure due to growing energy crisis.