Razak for trade opportunities to be explored in post-virus crisis

By Asad Cheema

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood has stressed the need for making preparations to exploit the economic and trade opportunities expected in the wake of post COVID-19 pandemic. “We perceive and expect more opportunities to promote bilateral trade and strengthen linkage with potential markets including Central European Union, China, Asian States, Middle East and African region besides promoting regional trade in post pandemic environment,†he said in an exclusive talk with The Daily Mail.
He said the pandemic would bring a paradigm shift, hence create great opportunities adding the coronavirus had changed the world and now the business processes would be completely different. “Such difficult period always brings out new opportunities, new products, and new ways of thinking,†he opined. Razak Dawood said the government was equally focusing on all sectors of economy including textile, non-textile, and agriculture and engineering sectors to build export potential of the country in coming months.
Talking about the external trade situation during the past three months, he said the situation of exports was not good as those had declined in April 2020 by around 54 percent as compared to the same month of last year and the reason obviously behind the decline was the spread of coronavirus across the world.
He informed that in last 10 months (July-April) of current fiscal year 2019-20, the overall exports were declined by four percent as compared to the corresponding period of last year. He said the exports increased by 13 percent in February, however, started reducing from March which had decline the exports by 6.5 per cent as compared to the last year.
However, he said even during the current lockdown situation, in the beginning of COVID- 19 pandemic, Pakistan exported textile and non-textile products while the country’s food exports increased especially in the Middle Eastern market. Likewise, exports in steel articles also increased in the last three months in the critical situation.
To a question on the current account deficit, the adviser said $6 billion decline was expected in the coming fiscal year through increasing exports and improving balance of trade. Razak Dawood said the government was prioritizing to promote ‘Made in Pakistan’ policy to boost local production and reduce dependence on import and enhance exports. “An agenda, in this regard, would be presented to Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet,†he added.
Talking about the tariff structure, he informed that the Ministry of Commerce was pursuing to bring changes in the tariff structure for the upcoming fiscal year, aiming at facilitating local production and thereby moving towards local manufacturing to get “Made in Pakistan Policy’ successfully implemented.
He said the government wanted to decrease customs’ duties on raw material and also wanted to document the non-tax businesses to bring them in the tax net. He said exports to different regions had increased as the exports to Middle East went up 36 per cent , African regions 10 per cent while the exports to Central Asian countries especially Uzbekistan were also on rise. The adviser emphasized the need for exploiting the huge opportunities of increasing exports in the health and safety products like personal protective equipments (PPE) including protective masks, gloves, sanitizers, clothing, helmets, goggles and other garments or equipment designed for protection from COVID -19.
He said a summary in that regard had already been forwarded to the cabinet, while the ministry was also negotiating the future strategy for increasing the exports to help export-led economic growth. “We should conclude our all strategy and start manufacturing in different sectors to achieve our exports targets,†he added.