For Pakistan to truly integrate itself in the global economy there is a need to first assert itself as a key regional trade partner and formalize trade routes to affix its place in South Asia. Logic dictates that doing business with one’s neighbour is the key towards economic growth, peace and prosperity. Keeping this in mind, and following the extension of the TRTA II programme, where the EU specifically asked TRTA II to work on regional trade integration, an International Expert, Mr. Jan Tomczyk, was engaged in May 2015. The primary focus of his mission was to ascertain the progress made by public and private sectors in promoting regional trade and to identify key partners, donor agencies working in this area in order to develop synergies to complement the work already carried out.
Mr. Tomczyk along with the TRTA II International Expert on SPS, Dr. Ian Goulding, held detailed meetings with Pakistan’s leading trading associations, with their member companies and with Federal Ministries and Provincial Departments to discuss specific aspects which deter Pakistan increasing exports of agro and manufactured products, such as non-tariff barrier (NTB), trade and transport facilitation problems at the border and beyond.
The experts visited Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and held discussions with members of The Pakistan Business Council, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry, National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee, Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Farmers Association, Guava Grower’s Association, Basmati Growers Association, Okara Potato Growers Cooperative, National Foods and Nestle. In addition, the experts met with PITAD, Ministry of Commerce, FBR, NAPHIS and the Agriculture, Planning and Investment Departments in the Sindh and Punjab. The Experts met up with academics form LUMS who gave their expert opinion on regional trade and shared with them their research papers on the subject.
Some of the main challenges identified during this preliminary mission include the agro and manufacturing NTBs, India’s farming subsidies, discretionary treatment on exports in a few neighbouring countries, the MFN, and sensitive lists which impose relatively high tariffs on Pakistan’s exports, the inability to use the transport mode of choice, the slow passage of goods through border crossings, the manual trans-shipment of perishable products resulting in spoilage and a reduction in shelf life, and the lack of banks to get transaction remittances to Pakistan.
Regardless of the challenges faced by Pakistan exporting companies many felt, there was scope for Pakistan to get its house in order and invest in logistics improvements such as a cool supply chain for perishable product export and import.
All these aspects were then presented and discussed in a series of seminars in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Participants form pubic ad private sectors, government and civil societies were then given the opportunity to discuss the challenges and suggested solutions for regional trade (particularly with India).