Experts at a seminar on Monday called upon the government to enhance its export capacity to cater to the demand of Chinese markets at competitive pricing as the second phase of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Islamabad and Beijing is being finalised.
The seminar, ‘Pakistan China Free Trade Agreement (FTA): where we are and where we are going?’ was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The speakers termed FTA a silver lining for Pakistan’s economy.
Dr Wang Zhihua, Minister Counsellor Economics and Commercial Section at the Chinese embassy, said though trade volume between Pakistan and China had increased, trading imbalance remained the biggest challenge for the government and the business community of Pakistan.
“The main reason behind the trade imbalance between the two countries is of structural in nature where China has strong manufacturing base to export goods compared to import,” he said, adding the finalisation of the second phase of FTA on the sideline of the second Belt and Road Forum would help resolve these issues and further strengthen bilateral trade ties.
Dr Zhihua said as per the FTA phase two, China had agreed to eliminate duties on more than 300 products, especially in the agriculture sector where Pakistan had the potential to expand its export basket to China.
He said China also encouraged more business to business interaction activities to help Pakistani business community learn more about Chinese demand and needs.
Project Director and Focal Person for CPEC Hassan Daud Butt said the previous two FTAs could not yield the desired results and paved the way for another revised agreement for the benefit of both the countries.
“In the previous FTAs, there were no safeguard measures for industries, no synergy between relevant institutions and the balance of payment vision was not incorporated. Besides, no data exchange policy was agreed to counter under-invoicing issues.”
He argued that due to the lack of efficiency and relatively lower productivity of human resource, Pakistan was lagging behind in the race of competitiveness compared to its peer countries in the region and in the world.
He stressed the need for enhanced efficiency and urged the business community to initiate joint ventures with the Chinese businesses.
Mustafa Hyder Sayed, Executive Director Pakistan-China Institute, stressed the need for changing the mindset when it comes to trade with China.
“We always look for concessions, favours and grants and fail to develop our own market and industries” he said, adding the government and the business community of Pakistan should change the mindset.