Daily Times, Pakistan
10 July 2005
1st report on FTAs with 9 major countries prepared
ISLAMABAD: The first draft of the report on free trade agreements between Pakistan and its nine major trading partners has been completed, an official told Daily Times on Saturday.
The ministry of commerce had engaged short-term consultants to carry out feasibility studies on possible free trade agreements with China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Tunisia, Mauritius, Morocco, Laos and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar.
The ministry of commerce will begin free trade agreement negotiations with these trading partners in light of the recommendations in the first draft of the report prepared by consultants of the ministry.
The presentation of the first draft of the report will be submitted in the third week of July to a committee constituted by the ministry of commerce. The commerce secretary will be the chairman of the committee. The members of the committee will consists of all wings of the ministry of commerce, the Export Promotion Bureau vice-chairman, the National Tariff Commission chairman, a representative from the Ministry of Industries, a representative from the Ministry of Textiles and Industry, a representative from the Central Board of Revenue, a representative from the Planning and Development Division, a representative from the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a representative from the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, a representative from the Quaid-i-Azam University and a representative from the Sustainable Development Policy Institute or the WTO Watch Group.
The first meeting of the committee will be held in the third week of July and it will discuss the draft report and will consider entering into negotiations with these trading partners.
Pakistan and China are already enjoying tariff concessions on hundreds of tradable items under the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and the Early Harvest Programme and have already agreed in principle to finalise the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as soon as possible.
The official said the free trade agreement between Pakistan and the GCC member countries is of considerable importance because of the historical relations with these Muslim countries and the easy access to these countries by sea or air. He added that Pakistan would stand to gain a lot if the FTA was finalised in a short span of time.
The free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia will help Pakistan improve its trade balance with these countries as the existing trade balance is in favour of the said countries.
He said the FTA with Tunisia, Mauritius, Morocco and Laos will lead to the availability of a new export market for Pakistani exporters with tariff concessions to boost exports.
The official added that Pakistan is doing its best to enlarge its trade canvas around the world and to enhance trade by signing Preferential Trade Agreements and Free Trade Agreements apart from the free trade regime under World Trade Organisastion (WTO).