Broader national consultation to boost Pak export competiveness: Official

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan exports sector was under pressure due to multiple factors that include constraints at national and global level.

Hence, Joint efforts by all the stakeholders including the government and private sector, were need of hour. This should be done through broader national consultation on policy actions aiming to promote growth and to make SMEs the engine of growth.

Mohammad Younus Dagha, Secretary Ministry of Commerce, said this while speaking at the roundtable meeting on ‘Achieving export competiveness in Pakistan’ held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration of Ministry of Commerce and The World Bank Group (WBG).

Mohammad Younus Dagha said that government and its institutions were taking all the possible measures to transform the exports related challenges into opportunities. While acknowledging the need of persistency in relevant policies, especially around the trade, he said that invest in human resource and agriculture sector where imperative to make our products more competitive in the international markets. He added further that government was focusing on enhancing bilateral trade and to boost foreign direct investment in Pakistan.

Patchamuthu Illangovan, Country Director WBG, on the occasion said that the population growth rate was a major impediment for the economic growth. He said that the private sector in Pakistan must play a role in boosting growth rate over 5% whereas the government institutions had also important role to play to augment economic growth.

He opined that instead of consumption-led growth, Pakistan should focus on investment-led growth. He viewed CPEC as an important opportunity for Pakistan and said that Pakistan should take advantage of its geographical location, especially around the CPEC project. Besides, investing and focusing on value chain should be a key consideration for Pakistan.

Dr. Vaqar Ahmad, Deputy Executive Director SDPI, earlier explained the different dynamics of exports competitiveness in Pakistan and said that to improve competitiveness of Pakistan’s exports; both public and private sector would need to collectively find out solutions. These may include regulatory constraints faced by businesses, rising cost of doing business in several key sectors and anti-export bias seen in the prevalent tax and tariff structure.

Besides, he said, limited entry of Pakistani enterprises in global value and supply chains, insufficient trade facilitation measures as well as lack of synchronized support from various government bodies at federal and provincial level, uncertain availability of export credit for small and medium enterprises, and exchange rate regime – which is not based on economic fundamentals were the key areas to be worked on.

He said that It would be important to evaluate that why Pakistan has achieved less than desired results from the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) plus status allowed by the European Union, and several bilateral and regional trade agreements with partner countries including China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Likewise, focusing on export of services instead of just goods would also be important as the services sector Pakistan can quickly become part of the regional value chains given the endowment of a young labor force. The government should consider strengthening Service Export Development Strategy as part of the overall Strategic Trade Policy Framework of Pakistan, he concluded.

Nadia Rocha and Gonzalo J. Verala, of the WBG, during their technical presentation, highlighted that trade was powerful vehicle of growth since last 30 years for developing countries. They highlighted that Pakistan was unable to utilize its trade potential and hence, it was high time to take key policy initiatives to reduce high tariffs as well as cost of doing business in order to make Pakistani exports more competitive in international markets.

During the consultative meeting, the representatives from manufacturing sector, exporters and experts from public and private sector identified a number of areas that were affecting the competiveness of Pakistani exports and presented their detailed recommendations as corrective measures.