LAHORE                -             As none of the free trade agreements has boosted ex­ports from the country so far, the Friends of Economic and Business Reforms (FEBR) has recommended the govern­ment to review its trade and export policies with a keen focus on value-addition for a sustainable economic trajec­tory, as the government has been facing decline in exports by over 3 percent in Jan 2020 despite depreciating curren­cy and taking several other measures.

FEBR President Kashif An­war said that country’s ex­port of merchandise has post­ed negative growth over the past two consecutive months despite multiple currency de­preciation.

“So far none of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) or preferential treaty with any country has helped enhance exports from the country af­ter its implementation while the volume of imports has seen double-digit growth af­ter those agreements with different countries.”

Contrary to the expecta­tions, exports entered nega­tive growth of 3.17pc to $1.97 billion in Jan 2020 as against $2.03bn over the correspond­ing month last year.

He said that the drop in exports’ proceeds has start­ed since Dec 2019 when it fell by 3.8 percent while a similar quantum of decline was seen in January 2020.

He said that the large scale manufacturing sector of the country has already been in negative growth since July 2019 but still the commerce ministry’s focus is on ne­gotiations for international trade agreements and market access. Between July 2019 and Jan 2020, the export pro­ceeds’ growth lowered by 2.14pc as it stood at $13.49 billion against $13.21 bil­lion over the corresponding months last year.

Kashif Anwar said that the numbers are discourag­ing as exports, which should have grown over the last few months owing to multiple currency depreciation, have failed to pick up.

The government projects exports during the ongoing fiscal to reach $26.187bn, up from $24.656bn in FY2019.

On the external side, im­ports are still dropping, which is providing some breathing space despite negative growth in exports from the country. The FEBR chief appreciated the gov­ernment’s efforts to narrow down current account defi­cit but warned the authori­ties that balance of accounts should not be at the cost of local industry’s growth.

Kashif Anwar said the gov­ernment strict import policy along with high cost of doing business owing to multiple raises in fuel cost and energy tariffs have almost halted the industrial production.

The current account deficit reduction should be based on growth in exports, resulting into growth in industrial pro­duction as well as employ­ment generation.

But unfortunately the pres­ent turnaround is largely due to the fall in imports that has accompanied sharp slow­down in growth after the currency devaluation and gradual increase in interest rates, which sent shockwaves through the economy.