Senate Standing Committee members lash out at Secretary Commerce

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SENATOR ZEESHAN KHAN ZADA, CHAIRMAN SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE PRESIDING OVER A MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE ISLAMABAD ON JULY 27, 2021.

 

Islamabad,  (Parliament Times) : A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was held at the Parliament House on Tuesday. The meeting was chaired by the chairman committee, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada.

Expressing displeasure over the absence of the Secretary Commerce, the members of the Committee said that if all of the members from distant areas of the country participate in the Committee, then why the Secretary Commerce cannot ensure his presence in the committee meeting? In reply, the Additional Secretary Commerce said that the Secretary Commerce is busy in Karachi, preparing for Expo 2020. Senator Danesh Kumar said that if Secretary Commerce, in future, does not attend the meeting, he will not participate in the committee meeting. Senator Fida Muhammad urged the chairman committee to pen a letter to the chairman senate against the behaviour of the secretary commerce. Senator Danesh Kumar and senator Ahmed Khan walked out of the Committee. Still, at the request of the chairman committee, senator Fida Muhammad brought the members back to the Committee. Addressing the members of the Committee, the chairman Committee said that “if this happens in future, I will also walk out with you”. The members of the Committee also expressed displeasure over the non-provision of working papers by the Ministry of Commerce in due course of time.

The Committee received a comprehensive briefing from the commerce ministry officials on the Strategic Trade Policy Framework. The DG Trade Policy briefed the Committee that trade targets in the last two programs were not realistic. Export targets were set too high to be attained. In previous trade policies, the emphasis was on three markets, including China and the EU. Compared to the year 2019-2020, our exports increased last year, he informed. Committee members asked, if the exports have increased, then tell us the details, where the orders came from?, on which the DG Trade Policy said that” we do not have the details of receiving orders, they did not share with us”. Additional Secretary Commerce apprised the Committee that the government curbed the energy rates for the industries and reduced the raw materials. The sales tax has diminished, and the industry has been given incentives. We have created new trading partners, he added. The Additional secretary commerce further added that IT-related exports have also increased and we expect that IT exports will double-fold in the next year. He said our emphasis on exports in new development sectors other than the traditional sector has also contributed to our exports.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on commerce, Abdul Razzaq Dawood, apologised to the members of the Committee on the absence of the Commerce Secretary. The Trade Adviser told the Committee that our focus has been on increasing exports for the last two and a half years. Despite the Covid-19, the problem of cash flow did not occur to the firms. He underlined that sometimes we get confused about whether there is a subsidy or not? We have not given any subsidy to the industry in energy, he added. He observed that the sector should be provided electricity at par with the industries of the rival countries. The new DLTL policy is going to be extended to new areas besides the traditional ones. He emphasised that Pakistan’s exports are minimal, and we have to look towards new sectors. We are bringing 11 new sectors including engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, Auto parts, fruit and vegetable, meat, poultry, which will further improve our exports, he underscored.

The trade adviser apprised the Committee that Pakistan would start exporting mobile phones in January 2022. He said that we wanted Samsung to come to Pakistan. We contacted Samsung mobile company twice, but they apologised. The Chinese company is setting up a factory in Karachi for mobile manufacturing.

Expressing his concern, Senator Muhammad Qasim, while addressing the commerce Adviser, said that some foreign companies come to our areas for seafood, which has left our fishermen in a nasty situation. Senator Fida Muhammad raised the question that KPK has many marble and minerals industries. The Ministry should also focus on these areas, he added. He said that after the merger if the integrated areas’ people are not given loans, how will they set up industries. The chairman of the Committee noted that the funding ratio of loans in Balochistan and Kpk is meagre. The loan funding rate in KPK is 1%, while in Balochistan, it is less than 0.5%. The Commerce adviser assured the Committee that they would solve the mentioned problems while focusing on marble and minerals.

The trade adviser informed the Committee that rice export to China had been halted due to coronavirus. Executive Director General Commerce said that coronavirus was found on the sacks of Pakistani rice, due to which China stopped the export of rice. Coronavirus was also found in the packing of six fish companies, due to which China curtailed importing from these six companies. Now China comes to inspect the rice itself, he informed.

Briefing on the overall import and export from 2011 to 2021 and Textile Policy 2020-2025 was recessed till the next meeting.

Deputy Chairman Senate Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Saleem Mandviwala, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Ahmed Khan, Senator Danesh Kumar, Senator Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan and Senator Mohammad Qasim participated in the Committee. PM Advisor on Commerce, Abdul Razzaq Dawood, Additional Secretary Commerce, EDG Commerce and other officials of the Ministry also attended the committee meeting.