ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has emphatically said no to a request by Kabul seeking permission to start direct trade with India via the Wagah border saying trade talks with New Delhi are currently off the table.

“We have asked Afghanistan to give us transit access to Central Asia. However, they linked it with allowing them direct trade with India via the Wagah border, which is not acceptable to Islamabad,” Minister for Commerce Engr Khurram Dastgir Khan said during informal discussion with journalists.

“Pakistan has put off trade talks with India,” he said.

He further said that Pakistan was likely to sign the transit trade agreement with the Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, the government is going to set unrealistic export target of $50 billion in the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF 2015-18), which would be unveiled in the first or second week of July. “We will try to double our exports to $50 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018,” the commerce minister said.

He admitted that commerce ministry’s officials had recommended fixing exports target at $40 billion in STPF 2015-18 what they termed it ‘realistic target’. However, prime minister is insisting the Minister to double the exports in next three years at the time when exports are continuously declining due to the several reasons.

The commerce minister said that federal cabinet would take a final decision regarding fixing exports target in STPF 2015-2018.

The government is likely to miss the exports target of $27 billion and revised target of $24.2 billion during outgoing financial year 2014-2015. Pakistan’s exports reached the mark of $21.9 billion during the first 11 months (July- May) of financial year 2014-15. Commerce ministry’s officials said devaluation of rupee, energy crisis, law and order in Karachi, and a slowdown in the economies of China, the European Union (EU) and United States were the principal reasons for decline in country’s exports.

Khurram Dastgir further informed that government would focus on value addition in upcoming Strategic Trade Policy Framework. He claimed that country’s exports to the European Union had gone up after getting GSP Plus status from EU. The minister said that import of used cars would not be part of the trade policy. He was of the view that policy of importing used cars should be abolished, as people were misusing the policy.

Meanwhile, chairing a meeting to review the performance of the renewed NTC under new law outlining the contours of Competitiveness Policy, the minister said National Tariff Commission (NTC) will draft a Competitiveness Policy which will propose measures to improve competitiveness of the domestic industry both in national and international markets.

He stated that the new policy will propose resource allocation to the most efficient industries to induce sophistication and high value-addition.

The policy will propose measures for compliance to the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) to ensure that the Pakistani products reach the high-value-end markets of the developed world. The policy will enunciate regulatory framework to ensure that Pakistani imports and exports comply with the international SPS and TBT standards practised in the world.

Competitiveness Policy will propose a package of incentives, protection and assistance to the industry using energy efficient inputs and products. To promote such practices in the domestic industry, drastic duty reduction will be proposed on the import of energy-efficient machinery.

The minister directed the NTC to conduct a comprehensive research to ascertain the sectors in which the preference for Pakistani products had been eroded due to the FTAs and bilateral trade agreements concluded by China in the recent years. He said that this information will be instrumental in securing a better trade deal with China and gaining further reduction in duties on Pakistani products in the second phase of Pak-China FTA.