Pakistan’s trade with Myanmar remained small: Khurram Dastgir

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ISLAMABAD, Mar 22 (APP): Minister for Commerce Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan on Tuesday said that Pakistan’s trade with Myanmar has remained negligible over the years with trade balance oscillating between the two countries.
Speaking in the National Assembly during question hour session, he said that this primarily happened due to continued instability in the country despite transitioning to a democratic dispensation in recent times.
In the year 2015-16, he said Pakistan’s export to Myanmar were $US10.9 million while imports were %US 26 million.
Pakistan, he said has been striving to become a full dialogue partner of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for which it has adopted the policy to conclude bilateral agreements with the major players of ASEAN.
Pakistan will engage with Myanmar after the ongoing efforts with the major players in ASEAN reach fruition, he added.
During the last five years, the minister said, Pakistan’s trade volume has been increased with 137 countries, adding, according to the available data for current financial year, Pakistan’s trade volume has increased with 87 countries compared to the corresponding period of last financial year.
He said the overall recession in World import demand has declined Pakistan’s exports over the last two years.
After a positive growth of 2.75 percent in Fiscal Year 2014, the export registered a negative growth of 4.88 percent in the FY 2015 and 12.11 percent in the FY 2016.
The major reasons for the decline were low commodity prices, slow down of the Chinese economy and Euro zone debt crises.
However, he said that the government has taken necessary steps to counter the effects of such global recession.
In order to restore the competitiveness and boost exports of the country, Prime Minister has announced the Trade Enhancement Package of Rs.180 billion.
The silent features of the package, he said were including, zero rating of machinery imports, withdrawal of duty and sales tax on cotton import, withdrawal of duty on import of MMF, release of pending liabilities of Textile Policies, release of pending Sales Tax Refunds, drawback of taxes for the following export sectors cascaded in terms of value addition.
The minister said that under Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF), 2015-18, a total of Rs. 20 billion will be spent on the development of the export sector over the next three years.
The projects for development sector were including, technology up-gradation, product development, branding & certification development support, draw-back for local taxes and levies and short-term export enhancement measures.
However, he said an additional amount of Rs 6 billion was available this fiscal year to exporters through Textile Policy 2014.
The sales tax zero-rating regime for five export oriented sectors including, textile, leather, carpets, surgical and sports goods has been introduced with effect from July 1, 2016.
Uninterrupted energy supply has been implemented with zero electricity load-shedding on industrial feeders since October 2015 and zero gas load-shedding for industry since March 2016, he added.
The minister said that in order to reduce cost of doing business, the government has reduced electricity tariff by Rs. 3 for industrial units with effect from January 1, 2016.
Furthermore, he said the fuel adjustment has been passed on to the consumer to further reduce the cost of production.
The export infrastructure was being continuously improved capacity of Lahore Expo Centre has been doubled; ground-breaking at Peshawar Expo Center and at the three 21st-century land ports at Torkham, Wagha and Chaman was also expected this fiscal year, Dastagir informed the house.
National Tariff Commission Act, he said, has been revamped and approved by the Parliament in 2015 to counter the import surge through unfair trade and strengthen trade defense mechanisms.
Trade Development Authority of Pakistan was undertaking various export promotional activities through trade exhibitions and delegations to promote exports to new markets.
The availability of affordable finance for the export sector has considerably improved he said and added, the State Bank of Pakistan has further reduced the discount rate to 5.75 percent.
Similarly, Khurram added, the Export Finance Rate was currently at 3.5 percent, which was the lowest in a decade.
Exim Bank was being established to facilitate export credit and for reducing the cost of borrowing for exporting sectors on a long term basis which will also reduce their risks through export credit guarantees and insurance facilities.
The Board of Directors of the bank has been appointed and it will be functional after completing the technical formalities.
Federal Cabinet has approved the resumption of banking channels between State Bank of Pakistan and Central Bank of Iran, which will boost Pak rice exports substantially, he told the lower house.
There was consistent effort for negotiating additional market access for Pakistani products in the target markets, he added.
In this regard, he said, FTA negotiations with Turkey and Thailand were at an advanced stage while, negotiations with Iran on FTA were being initiated, and joint research study to assess the potential for a preferential arrangement with Korea was underway