Govt must review domestic trade policy framework

The Nation, April 13, 2008

ISLAMABAD – The experts on trade and development urged the government to review its domestic trade policy framework to integrate different aspects in it to get benefits of the globalisation.

The gap should be bridged between policy and implementation to capitalise its comparative advantages in the era of competitiveness under globalisation, they said this while speaking in a seminar, organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Foreign Trade Institute of Pakistan (FTIP), here on Saturday. M Ashraf Khan, additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, inaugurated the session.

Participating in the discussion, former State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain said that trade has become a powerful mean for a country’s economic and social development. Referring to the annual report of FTIP, he said that it provides a proof that trade and development are inter-linked.

He urged for promoting knowledge-based education to excel in engineering and technology to earn the fruits of comparative advantages, adding that the production cycle changes with reaping the benefits of comparative advantage.

He advised Pakistanis to move in IT direction like Indians and get benefit from services sector, which was 53 per cent of our economy. He lamented that even Vietnam and other so many countries have made rapid progress as compared to Pakistan by properly utilising their potentials.

Dr Sohail Jehangir Malik of Innovative Development Strategy (Pvt) Limited said that there was a need to bridge the gap between policies and their implementation. He regretted that the existing trade policy has become hostage to fiscal and monitoring space while the state of domestic commerce was extremely poor.

Dr Abid Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, observed that Nairobi-based United Nations Conference on Trade and Development had no powers to implement the decisions and Pakistan along with other developing countries should adopt a collective position instead of symbolic position in the UNCTAD.

He said that our national policies needed genuine reassessment, development of competitiveness and parallel governance mechanisms to support the high growth.

Dr Safdar Sohail, Director General Foreign Trade Institute of Pakistan, said effective coordination and implementation mechanisms to use the trade policy for the development of the country.

Dr Sajjad Akhtar of Centre for Research on Poverty Reduction and Income urged Pakistan to invest for competitiveness, adopt strategic trade policies, restore a focus on agriculture, combat jobless growth, prepare a new tax regime, maintain stable exchange rates, persist with multilateralism and cooperation with neighbours to mainstream the development wit the trade policy of Pakistan.

Former Chairman Public Accounts Committee H U Baig urged that growth has to be supported by other policies and mechanisms, in addition to a strong implementation and coordination mechanism in place for policies. He also suggested formation of a cabinet coordination committee for this purpose.

Dr Pervaiz Tahir, former chief economist, urged the need for reclaiming of development and abundance of alternatives. He said that development included economic growth, economic development, human development and sustainable development.

He deplored over disconnect and linkages between policies of the country while growth was uncertain, poverty was continuously increasing and inequality was starkly visible.

Syed Hasan Javed, DG UN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Syed Irtiqa Ahmed Zaidi from Ministry of Commerce shared Pakistan’s perspective and positions in the United Nations Conference on Development and Development (UNCTAD), a UN forum, which was formed 44 years ago, to debate the trade and development related issues of member countries.

Tipu Sultan of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan differed with the perception whether there existed any nexus between trade and development, adding that the role of UNCTAD should be the capacity building, human development and food security of the member countries than to support for export oriented policies.

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