Pakistani economy growing at a fast pace: Younus Dagha

AUSTRALIA (CANBERRA): The 7th Session of Pakistan Australia Joint Trade Committee was held at Canberra, Australia on 4th of December 2017. The Pakistan delegation was led by Mr. Mohammad Younus Dagha, Secretary Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan and Australian side was led by Ms Kathy Klugman, First Assistant-Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Wide ranging issues including market access to Pakistan goods, trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan and business visa were taken up by during the meeting. The meeting was held in a very friendly and cordial manner. Both sides agreed that current level of trade and investment between the two countries does not commensurate with the potential and underlined the need to find ways and means to enhance trade.

During his opening remarks, the Secretary Commerce thanked the Australian side for their hospitality and expressed his satisfaction over the increasing trends in bilateral trade. The Secretary Commerce made a very effective presentation on trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan emerging in the wake of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The presentation highlighted that Pakistani economy has been growing at a fast pace and the macroeconomic indicators and inward investment into the country provide positive signals for foreign investors.

With regard to bilateral trade between Australia and Pakistan, the Secretary Commerce stated that Pakistan exports to Australia have not achieved the potential due to tariff differential faced by Pakistani exporters. He argued that products originating from Bangladesh are subject to zero duty because of it being a Least Developing Country and at the same time China enjoys zero duty because of a Free Trade Agreement with Australia. He underscored the need for a level playing for Pakistani products in Australian market and suggested that Pakistan should either be accorded Developing Country Status with zero tariffs on its items of prime export interest or both sides should strive for a Free Trade Agreement. As an interim measure he suggested that an Early Harvest Program may be negotiated between the two sides and exchange concessions on priority items.

The Australian side acknowledged that Pakistani goods are facing higher tariffs but explained that they were in the process of phasing out their MFN tariffs, however they agreed to consider Pakistan’s proposal of creating a level playing field either through a formal arrangement or may be through change of category in the Developing Country tariffs of the Australian System of Tariff Preferences.

He also raised the issue of travel advisory for Pakistan and non-issuance of business visa for Pakistani businessmen which are impeding trade between the two. The Australian side conceded that this issue was a long standing demand of Pakistan side and agreed to take up with the authorities concerned.

Secretary Commerce also held meeting with the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Hon. Mr. Keith Pitt and highlighted the issues of market access for Pakistan goods especially on textile and agriculture products. The Minister also promised to look into the issues positively.

The Secretary Commerce during the visit held meetings with leading businessesmen including Mr. Jason Lang Managing Director of Macquarie Capital, Mr. Mohammad Hage NSW Chairman of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Frank Alafaci, President of the Asian Australia Business Council. Mr. Graeme Burt General Manager, Oracle Netsuite and owners of the other Australian Businesses. During these meetings, the Secretary Commerce appreciated the role of the business community in forging growing bilateral economic relations and also highlighted the economic potential of Pakistan and investment opportunities arising out of the positive economic developments in the country. He also stressed the need for increasing bilateral trade engagement between the two countries through the exchange of business delegations.

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