Ministry of Commerce organizes an International Conference on Trade and Competitiveness

Islamabad, June 08, 2015 (PPI-OT): Ministry of Commerce organized an International Conference on Trade and Competitiveness with the support of World Bank which was attended by distinguished scholars, policy makers, representatives of development agencies and private sector. Federal Minister for Commerce, Engr. Khurram Dastagir Khan was the chief guest at the inaugural session of the conference.

Conference was attended Dr. Shahid Kardar, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Salman Shah, former care-taker Finance Minister and Advisor to the PM, Mr. Gohar Ijaz from All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, Dr. Faisal Bari, Mr. Uri Dadush, eminent scholar on SME management and other distinguished guests.

Speakers at the Conference highlighted major reforms that the Government must undertake in order to drastically enhance the competitiveness of Pakistani products which are facing tough competition in the international markets. Speaking at the occasion the Minister for Commerce said that the present Government inherited a fledgling economy but since assuming office it has implemented a forward looking economic agenda.

He said that the Government has taken painful yet necessary reforms which have resulted in the stabilization of the economy. Economy of Pakistan is on the right track today due to the far-reaching structural reforms, stabilization measures and initiatives of the past 24 months.

The Minister said that in order to improve transparency, enhance competitiveness and remove anti export bias, Ministry of Commerce and FBR has undertaken a tariff rationalization exercise. This exercise will result in a coherent and clean tariff structure that would ease doing of business in Pakistan. The process was initiated in the fiscal year 2013-14 and would be completed in a three year period. By the year 2016-17, the number of slabs would be reduced from 7 to 4 with maximum tariff of 25%.

He was of the view that export diversification is widely recognized as a positive trade policy objective in sustaining economic growth. The Ministry realizes the need to expand export markets and enhance its share in regional trade. Pakistan has signed Free trade Agreements with China, Sri-Lanka and Malaysia. There are also ongoing FTA discussions with Thailand, Turkey and Korea.

The Conference was informed that two institutions that will promote stronger trade relations and help businesses deal with disputes are National Tariff Commission and Trade Dispute Resolution Organization. The Ministry of Commerce is in the process of revamping the National Tariff Commission as a priority. The Government has taken the first step by promulgating 4 trade remedy laws and procedures that are in greater compliance with WTO laws and procedures. This is geared towards helping businesses operate smoothly without undue government interference and inordinate delays in obtaining redressals.

Pakistan is also cognizant of the immense potential of the export from service sector. In this context, Ministry of Commerce has established Trade in Services Council with representatives from Public and Private Sector.

Speakers at the conference emphasized the need to improve investment climate, improve access to finance, support the creation of SMEs, bring innovation in the production methods and train workforce with the skills required by a forward-looking industry.

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Haji Ahmed Malik
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