Policy reform essential for Pakistan to improve trade with India
That was the conclusion of experts at a public-private dialogue in Pakistan, on 16 January 2013. The event was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development (PITAD), with the official endorsement of Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce, as part of the European Union-funded Trade Related Technical Assistance Programme (TRTA) for Pakistan.
Over 120 participants took part in the event, including representatives from federal government ministries, agencies, provincial departments, chambers of commerce, trade associations, businesses, independent research organizations and academia. They examined the problems facing Pakistan and India in terms of bilateral trade, customs, tariffs, trade policy and the business community. Participants agreed that ignoring the possible outcomes of opening up free trade with India would be disastrous for Pakistan’s agricultural sector and leave it unable to compete with India’s agricultural sector, which is heavily subsidized. Stakeholders from Pakistan’s agriculture and industrial sectors stressed the need for their government to thoroughly examine the implications before granting the Most Favoured Nation status to India and opening up free trade between the two countries.
Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Senior Vice-President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “There is a need to execute concrete policies for enhancing competitiveness for trade with India and all stakeholders should be consulted on the subject. In some sectors, Pakistani producers have a disadvantageous position and the government should ensure that there is a level-playing field between Pakistani businesses and their Indian competitors.”
Abdul Basit Khan, Additional Secretary at Pakistan’s Ministry of Food Security, underscored the significance of improved bilateral relations to alleviate poverty, and encourage economic growth, peace and stability in the region. Dr Shujat Ali, Secretary of the Department of Industries, Commerce and Investment at the Government of the Punjab, urged stakeholders to act upon policy recommendations from the public-private consultation process, focussed on improving competitiveness in identified sectors. He said: “While global experience suggests that there are widespread economic gains from inter-regional trade, there is a need to address regional and sectoral disadvantages through appropriate remedial measures available under various trade agreements, including SAFTA.”
Mohammad Owais Khan, Programme Officer for the ITC Component of the TRTAII Pakistan Programme, said: “Following the event, concrete policy proposals to enhance competitiveness of the export potential of the livestock and dairy sectors will be formally submitted to the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for potential implementation. This initiative is part of ITC’s efforts to promote a more comprehensive, regular and well informed public-private dialogue between the government, the private sector and civil society as a basis for trade policy developments and interventions.”