All Pakistan Business Forum has asked the government to take business community on board in preparing policies to enhance exports so that fast widening trade deficit could be diminished, which is prerequisite for economic growth.

APBF President Ibrahim Qureshi said that trade deficit surged by 10.68% to 22.09 billion dollars in 2014-15 from 19.963 billion dollars in the preceding fiscal year, the record highest trade imbalance since 1980-81, while the government had projected a trade deficit target of 17.2 billion dollars for the fiscal year.

The record 22 billion US dollars trade gap is happening despite the fact that Pakistan is enjoying preferential access to the EU market under GSP Plus and interest rate is also lower at home while oil prices are constantly declining, the biggest drain on the country’s foreign currency reserves.

He lamented that country’s exports have been stagnant at $24-25 billion for the last many years. Quoting the figures, he said that during last 30-year period (1980-2011), India’s share of world exports improved from 0.43% to 1.7%; Bangladesh’s from 0.04% to 0.14%; Malaysia’s from 0.74% to 1.34% and Thailand’s from 0.37% to 1.35%. But it is unfortunate that Pakistan’s share remains stagnant at 0.15%.

Ibrahim Qureshi said that during the fiscal year, imports from China increased sharply to 23% from 17% a year ago. “International image building is the need of the hour with complete overhauling of TDAP, besides formation of new trade specific export promotion agencies having independent budgets and policies,” he said. He added that though energy shortage and law and order kept the economy hostage during the last many years, yet the government should have a clear vision on the economic issues, to help resolve the problems of export oriented industry at the earliest.

“The trade imbalance in favour of China is highly alarming. Free Trade Agreements signed with some of the countries appear to have been playing a major role for this imbalance. On the other hand, exports fell by 4.88% to $23.88 billion as compared to 25.11 billion dollar a year ago.”

Ibrahim Qureshi said that Pakistan’s exports base and markets are extremely narrow. More than 55% of its exports earnings are contributed by the cotton group while leather, synthetic made-ups and rice contribute around 14% of total exports. Unfortunately, these items are relatively low value-added products.

APBF president urged the government that all stakeholders be taken on board while preparing industry related policies, and asserted that industrial estates be exempted from load shedding of gas and electricity to meet the local market and export targets.

Ibrahim Qureshi said the government should also facilitate the exporters and implement all trade facilitations in letter and spirit enshrined in trade policies.

He said that APBF understands that law and order is a major cause of decline in local and foreign investment and if the government fails to respond to private sector’s call, the economy will continue to slide ultimately resulting in closure of industry and trade.