ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has approved the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2015-18.

This mid-term framework has been formulated after an extensive consultative process, spanning over almost a year, and keeping in view the current trends in global trading and the decline witnessed in Pakistan’s exports during 2015.

All the stakeholders in the public and private sector, including the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, district chambers, trade associations, private businesses, academia, trade missions, ministries/divisions and other government agencies have remained actively engaged in formulation of the STPF.

The entire process culminated in comprehensive deliberations during the Advisory Council meeting, chaired by the minister for commerce and attended by the stakeholders as well as prominent exporters and public sector decision makers.

Learning from the previous two medium-term frameworks, STPF 2009-12 and STPF 2012-15, this time it has been ensured that the procedural and budgetary bottlenecks are removed to increase the annual exports to $35 billion by improving the export competitiveness, to transform the ‘factor-driven’ economy into ‘efficiency-driven’ and “innovation-driven” economy, and to increase share in the regional trade through competitiveness, compliance with standards, policy environment and market access.

All processes have simultaneously been completed and the budgetary allocation of Rs. 6 billion has been approved to implement the trade policy initiatives for the year 2015-16, while continued budgetary support in the Financial Year 2016-17 and 2017-18 has also been proposed.

The STPF 2015-18 also includes a short-term Export Enhancement Strategy, chalked out to identify focus products, focus markets, and market linked focus products. The estimated cost of the short-term export enhancing measures for 2015-16 is Rs 450 million, and Rs 1450 million for 2015-18.

These amounts are included in the overall allocation for the STPF.

The STPF 2015-18 has identified four main pillars: product sophistication and diversification (research and development, value addition, and branding), market access (enhancing share in existing markets, exploring new markets, trade diplomacy and regionalism), institutional development (restructuring, capacity building) and trade facilitation (reducing cost of doing business, standardization, and regulatory measures).

A Trade Committee, headed by the federal minister for commerce, has been constituted for monitoring the implementation of STPF, removing bottlenecks, examining issues relating to trade promotion, strengthening international competitiveness and presenting Annual STPF Implementation Report to the Cabinet Committee on Production & Exports as well as Federal Export Development & Promotion Board (FEDPB).