ISLAMABAD -  The government would initiate branding Pakistan internationally with a well-designed campaign to promote exports as well as enhancing competitiveness of country's products in international market.

Ministry of Commerce is working on developing a three-stage communication and image building strategy which will work on branding Pakistan (image building), made in Pakistan (trade) and Make in Pakistan (investment). Official sources on Sunday said that Pakistan's exports have witnessed an increasing trend and reached $9.03 billion in first five months (July to November 2017-18), registering 10.50 percent growth as compared to corresponding period last year.

The exports during corresponding period of last year (July to November 2016-17) were $8.17 billion, the sources said while quoting figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). Giving further details, the sources said that the cost of production depends on national and international variables. Pakistan exports were facing many challenges like low market diversification and lack of introduction of modern technology by business community which certainly affect cost of production.

The sources said that the ministry is well aware of the fact and keeps on taking various measures that are aimed at reducing cost of production as well as enhancing competitiveness of Pakistani products in international market. The ministry has recently undertaken an exercise in consultation with stakeholders to review the regulatory duties (RDs) imposed on various items and proposed to remove/reduce RDs on basic raw materials and intermediate goods for downstream industry which would reduce production cost and enhance Pakistan's integration in the regional and global value chains.

Listing the other steps, the sources said that in order to enhance export competitiveness, the government had announced an export enhancement package of Rs180 billion for exporting business community, which is applicable for about 18 months from January 16, 2017 to June 30, 2018. This incentive was revised further vide economic coordination committee (ECC) of cabinet decision on October 6, 2017.

The salient features included 50 percent of the rate of incentive for eligible textile and non-textile sectors already announced in PM package shall be provided on same terms as for period January to June, 2017 i.e. without condition of increment while remaining 50 percent of rate of incentive shall be provided, if the exporter achieves an increase of 10 percent or more in exports as compared to corresponding period of the last year.

The sources said that an additional 2 percent drawback shall be provided for exports to non-traditional markets i.e. Africa, Latin America, non-European countries, Commonwealth of Independent States and Oceania as same condition as in sub-para (a) and (b). Moreover, the sources said that under strategic trade policy framework 2015-18, the government has announced following for promoting exports of SME Sector.

The initiatives inter-alia included:  an incentive for technology up-gradation in shape of investment support of 20 percent and mark-up support of 50 percent up to a maximum of Rs1 million per annum per company for import of new plant and machinery. Matching grant up to a maximum of Rs5 million for specified plant and machinery or specified items to improve product design and encourage innovation in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and export sectors of leather, pharmaceutical and fisheries.

Matching grant to facilitate branding and certification for faster growth of SME and export sector in Pakistan's economy through intellectual property registration (including trade and service marks) certification and accreditation.

Draw-back for local taxes and levies (DLTL) is being given to exporters on free on board (FOB) values of their enhanced exports if increased by 10 percent and beyond (over last year's exports) at rate of 4 percent on increased exports. The sources said that the government is providing export-oriented industries with a concession of Rs3 per unit in electricity tariff since 2016, to promote exports of value added sectors, sales tax zero-rating regime for five export oriented sectors, i.e. textile, leather, carpets, surgical and sports goods has been introduced with effect from July 1, 2016.

The ministry is undertaking consistent efforts for getting additional market access for Pakistani products in potential markets and in this regard, free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Turkey and Thailand are at an advanced stage, negotiations with Iran on the FTA are being initiated and joint research study to assess potential for a preferential arrangement with Korea is underway.

Similarly, the sources said to promote exports to new markets, trade development authority of Pakistan is undertaking various export promotional activities through trade exhibitions and delegations while commerce divisions is working on diversifying export markets through an outreach strategy for Africa, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin America. EXIM Bank is being established to facilitate export credit and for reducing cost of borrowing for exports sectors on long term basis. This will also reduce their risks through export credit guarantees and insurance facilities.

The State Bank of Pakistan has further reduced the discount rate to 5.75 percent. Similarly, the export finance rate is currently at 3 percent, which is the lowest in a decade.