Protect Pak interests in FTAs

DURING talks with the Japanese envoy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed Pakistan’s interest for starting negotiations towards the signing of Free Trade Agreement with Tokyo. Given the trade ties with Japan dating back to 1948 and the historic goodwill existing between the two nations, the proposal floated by the PM is positive and the one which was long overdue. While welcoming it, we expect that both the governments will engage immediately to formulate such a draft that not only enhances the trade volume but is also a win-win deal for both the countries.
This also comes at a time when Pakistan is already at final stages of signing the FTAs with Turkey and Thailand. Undoubtedly, these proposed FTAs are meant to enhance Pakistan’s trade with those countries but it is also a fact that the previously inked FTAs or PTAs have not yielded anything positive except for increase in our imports and trade deficit. So before concluding the new agreements, our authorities should not be distracted by any expediency but keep the interests of the country supreme. While negotiating the FTA with any country, we should emphasize on pressing for maximum tariff reduction or elimination on our high potential export products. Just as the PM very pertinently during talks with the Japanese ambassador asked Tokyo to consider a three to four year exception for Pakistani textiles under its Temporary Tariff Measures in order to bring Pakistan at par with its competitors which enjoy free access to the Japanese market. We should also be wary of non-tariff barriers as the tariff elimination alone cannot increase Pakistan’s exports. Apart from making trade remedy provisions and safeguards part of the FTAs, our focus should also be towards diversifying our exports and bringing value addition in the products. This can be done by giving right kind of incentives to the important sectors. In the nutshell, ensuring a fair deal in FTAs and enhancing the export basket is the course that we need to tread in order to achieve export related benchmarks and strike a balance in trade with different countries.

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