Commerce Minister rejects Trade Policy 2002-03

SLAMABAD (December 18 2002) : Rejecting the Trade Policy, 2002-03 formulated by his predecessor, Abdul Razak Dawood, Commerce Minister Humanyun Akhtar Khan has announced to make it more export-oriented.

“The present trade policy cannot be implemented as there is still no existence of most talked Exim Bank and Free Port at Gwadar in the papers,” said Humayun while briefing journalists at his office in the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday.

Sources in the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) have also hinted that new things were being introduced in the trade policy, which had not been allowed by the former regime.

The new commerce minister also disregarded the proposal of Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Most Favoured Nation status or any other step to promote trade with India in the present circumstances.

“We cannot initiate dialogue with India on trade or grant her MFN status until the latter does not start negotiations on political issues including Kashmir, which is the core dispute between the two countries,” he added.

India wants MFN status before talks on political issues, but we desire political issues including Kashmir in first place to have durable trade relations, he opined.

Replying to a question, he said that FTA with the United States was a part of negotiations but it was at preliminary stage, progress was expected during his visit to Washington from December 27, he added.

“I will seek expansion in trade and enhancement of textile quota, besides talks on scenario after 2005, when quotas would be removed,” he maintained.

Answering another question, Humayun said that the main issue to be settled with Afghanistan was Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA), which according to him is hurting Pakistan's economy and local industry. He, however, hoped that the matter would be resolved amicably in the best interest of both the countries.

Commerce Minister said that his Trade Vision was at initial stage and would be finalised soon after formal consultations with the trade bodies, adding that he was starting visits of trade bodies and associations from Karachi on Friday next.

Humayun gave credit to the previous government for brining macro-economic stability, but said that higher growth rate needed lower cost of production, which was not achievable in Pakistan due to unprecedented higher rates of electricity and gas.

“If you have to make the exports internationally compatible, you have to reduce the prices of utilities,” Humayun said, adding that his agenda was to bring the country on higher growth rate.

He was of the view that regional stability, law and order and political stability were perquisites for economic development of the country.

“I hope political stability in the country will persist as the two main politicians, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto are away from politics and now no body wants instability, but regional stability depends on relations with India and Afghanistan,” he argued.

Humayun favoured zero duty on investment to attract foreign and local investors and claimed that his investment policy was best ever weighing the prevailing economic indicators that is why the Board of Investment did not change it except duty percentage. Replying to a question, he said that Pakistan and Iran would sign an agreement during the visit of President Khatmi, which would help in increasing bilateral trade substantially.

Asked, whether the issue of consignments detained by the US customs authorities which were to be delivered on the eve of Christmas or New Year, he replied that the figures of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and US customs did not match which created problem. He, however, added that Pakistan has asked the US to adjust these consignments in the next year's quota.

Answering a question, the minister said that there was no plan to replace EPB Chairman Tariq Ikram.

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