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The Nation

Published Date: Oct 26, 2014

Call to improve trade linkages with neighbours

Islamabad – Speakers at a multi-stakeholders consultation stressed the
need for improving trade linkages with neighbouring countries in the
region. They also called for developing the narrative that trade can
bring peace and therefore the regional countries should go for it,
rather than waiting for peace to start a trading regime. They said
conflict should not be the bottleneck in way of trade and South Asia
should follow the examples of UK and Spain, as well as China and India
where regional trade continues despite centuries’ old conflicts on
The consultation on “Trade with Neighbors: Prospects and
Challenges,” was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute
(SDPI) where SDPI also launched its two recent studies on regional
Speaking on the occasion, Federal Minister for Commerce
Engineer Khurram Dastgir said that PML-N government is committed to
increase regional trade as part of promoting peace without compromising
on national sovereignty. He added that connectivity especially transport
through road, rail and maritime is vital in Prime Minister’s vision of
regional cooperation and trade. Commerce ministry is proactively
focusing on tri-lateral avenues of trade, connectivity and investment as
part of regional cooperation to promote peace in South Asia.
Dr Abid
Qayyum Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, while upholding the
narrative that trade can bring peace, said that countries cannot change
their neighbours and regional trade is all about neighbours, building
alliance and synergies for economic and social development to minimize
conflict and promote peaceful coexistence. He added that trade is
changing from commodification to supply chain concept where linkage and
collaboration is the key for progress and prosperity. “Pakistan has
given India a de-facto most favorite nation status by shifting from
positive list basis trade regime to a negative list basis trade regime.
We are now trading on 85% tariff lines compared to 35% tariff lines till
2011”. He said it’s time to focus on human securities. Minister for
Privatization Muhammad Zubair, highlighting the importance of regional
trade, said that we should follow examples of China-India,
China-America, Russia-Europe and many others which have their principle
stance on political differences among them yet resolved to continue
trading with each other. He said PML-N’s manifesto plans for ‘Economic
growth’ wherein Pakistan- China Economic Corridor and trade with
neighbors is on top on agenda. He also emphaised the importance of
changing our perception to a peace loving nation in the international
community to attract foreign direct investment through
PPP Senator
Rubina Khalid termed the “mistrust level” between Pakistan and India as
the basic problem for low regional trade. However, she warned of
following a unilateral trade liberalization approach and advised that
Pakistan should trade with neighbours on reciprocal basis. Dr Vaqar
Ahmed, the Deputy Executive Director of SDPI, said that aim of this
consultation is to share our findings and look into new opportunity in
the context of Pakistan’s role as an economic corridor due to its
geographical situation linking South Asia, China and central Asian
region to Arabian sea and rest of the world.

within South Asia shipping connectivity is very low and closely
regulated which needs to be deregulated referring to World Bank’s ease
of trade across borders. Chinese financing in road and rail
infrastructure can be a game changer in the region by connecting
regional trade and becoming part of supply chain. Trade between Pakistan
and India is happening even with barriers, through traditional and
non-traditional traditional routes by going around the security paradigm
Khalid, former President of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
suggested that Pakistan needs to revisit its commercial conflict
resolution mechanism by making it efficient and friendly to reassure
investors who are weary of present lengthy procedures. There is need to
transform our agro-based produce to convert it into value-added
products. Ali Salman presented different figures quoted from difference
sources about Chinese investment in energy and infrastructure

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