Govt to revise trade policy

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce has decided to revise the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) as exports continue to fall.

The decision was taken on Thursday in a meeting headed by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir. A source privy to the meeting told that a new policy will be evolved in six months.

The three-year STPF was approved by the government last year. The framework aimed to expand exports to $35 billion by 2018, improve export competitiveness, shift the economy from factor-driven to innovation-driven and increase the share in the regional trade.

However exports have continued to fall and expected to reach $20bn this fiscal year compared to around $25bn in 2013.

The government will now initiate consultations with 12 large export associations next week, while an inter-ministerial meeting will be held after Eidul Fitr on the issue.

Major reasons identified for failure of the STPF were: the framework was properly structured, notifications of the five major schemes were issued late, cumbersome procedures for availing the schemes.

Under the existing STPF, claims of only Rs3.3m were received in two years from exporters while a bulk amount of Rs4bn was lapsed and subsequently surrendered to the Ministry of Finance.

The new version of the STPF will include proposals from major stakeholders received before the budget 2017-18, the source said. It will review previous export promotion schemes.

An official statement issued after the meeting said the commerce ministry was all set to revise the STPF to facilitate exporters. Mr Dastgir directed Secretary Commerce Younus Dagha to complete work on STPF by the end of this year.

The meeting was informed that the government will monitor the performance of trade officers abroad, conclude free trade agreements (FTAs), revise preferential trade agreements and explore new export markets.

Mr Dagha said steps have been taken to boost trade, and cited bilateral trade between Pakistan and Iran which has crossed $1bn.

Mr Dastgir directed Mr Dagha to launch a Pakistan branding campaign, ensure the inauguration of Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development’s building, complete work on the new STPF, e-commerce framework, geographical indication law and FTAs, especially with Thailand and Turkey, by the end of this year.

He also directed the secretary to ensure reimbursement of the tax refunds.

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