Regional Economic Integration with Asia Pacific region through Trade Diplomacy reviewed under EU sponsored public private dialogue

In a public private dialogue (PPD) organized by International Trade Centre (ITC) under the EU funded TRTA II programme, regional economic integration with Asia Pacific region was discussed and deliberated among the stakeholders in Islamabad on 19 June. The PPD was attended by more than 130 stakeholders from public sector, private sector and academia where the government policies and a future roadmap were discussed for a better regional partnership. The PPD was informed by two research studies on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Institutional mechanism for trade negotiations in light of Pak-China and Pak-Malaysia FTAs. The two studies were conducted by Prof. Ejaz Ghani of PIDE and Mr. Saifullah Khan of SU Khan Associates respectively and were internationally peer reviewed.

The studies recommended that it is mutually beneficial for ASEAN plus and Pakistan if Pakistan joins the trade group given the great trade potential and geographical situation of the country. The findings were supported by empirical data and econometric models. It was also recommended by the studies that Pakistan should include reverse MFN clause in the revised FTA with China and Malaysia so that increased preference is available to Pakistan, should China and Malaysia grant deeper concessions to any other country. Capacity building and awareness on FTAs for enhanced utilization of the improved market access among private sector was one of the many recommendations of the PPD.

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad former Ambassador of Pakistan to WTO, Dr. Vaqar Ahmad, SDPI, Mr. Anis Alam, TDAP, Mrs Anjum Assad Amin were some of the notable panelists who commented on the studies and Pakistan’s approach to regional economic integration. The PPD was chaired by Mr. Fazal Abbas Maken, Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce.

In the preliminary session of PPD, Mr. Maken in his keynote address highlighted the lack of engagement in public and private sector for policy making, which he highlighted, is now being bridged by the ITC implemented PPDs. He stressed that the PPD mechanism should continue within extension phase of the TRTA II programme. He elaborated the government priorities and vision for regional economic integration in detail.

Mr. Bazin Beniost, head of rural development and economic cooperation at the EU delegation Pakistan flagged that EU is supportive of Pakistan’s economic integration into regional and global economy. He stressed that such integration is key to poverty alleviation and the EU will assist Pakistan in that connection through technical assistance. He emphasized the importance of PPD mechanism which according to him is stimulated by high quality research. He noted that the PPDs are in support of EU GSP plus status to Pakistan which has been recently granted. He stated that concerted efforts and engagement of public and private sector is needed for economic policy development.

Mr. Sajid Hussain, DG Trade Organizations who was transferred few days ago, highlighted his association with TRTA II programme where he conducted a number of PPDs and trainings in association with ITC. He stated that he has visited the field intervention of TRTA II programme which are commendable. He highlighted the enhanced capacity of PITAD resulting from the Component 1 interventions which as stated by him is better placed to assess trade agreements and provide policy advice to the government. He wished success to his successor.

Mr. Mohammad Owais Khan, Programme Officer ITC, welcomed the participants and applauded the support that was received from Mr. Hussain as DG PITAD. He gave a brief account of the PPD process and underscored the importance of public private consultati0on on important policy decisions. He flagged the efforts of ITC for the institutionalization of PPD process in Pakistan where eleven PPDs were held on different topics related to regional integration, commercial diplomacy and negotiations, and sectoral competitiveness. He informed that it was the last PPD under Component 1 of the TYRTA II programme as per original mandate.

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