GCC-Pakistan FTA termed as breakthrough for trade

ISLAMABAD (APP): Federal Minister for Commerce, Dr. Gohar Ejaz here on Wednesday termed the recently signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as breakthrough for trade, making Pakistan the first country to secure such arrangement and providing it access to substantial market.
“This is very positive news for Pakistan exports towards gulf countries,” the minister said while addressing a press conference. He was flanked by Federal Caretaker Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Murtaza Solangi , Caretaker Minister for Power and Petroleum Muhammad Ali and Caretaker Federal Minister for Interior Sarfraz Ahmad Bugti.
He said, GCC, the six-country bloc comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was established in 2009 and it was after 14 long years that any country was having FTA with the council. The FTA was signed at 5th round of GCC meeting held last week. The minister said that GCC was market of around $1 trillion exports and $550 billion imports, however Pakistan’s share in imports from was it was $19 billion dollar average as it was importing energy and petrochemical products while the exports’ share was just $2.5 billion dollar.
The minister lauded Saudi Arabia for playing important role in materializing the agreement with six gulf countries, adding that all members of all countries were present during the agreement and they even celebrated it to have such agreement with any country. The minister said that Pakistan also discussed issues of Pakistani overseas workers in Saudi Arabia. He said, discussion were made for putting in place a mechanism to facilitate workers to have proper certification to comply with new laws of Saudi Arabia.
The minister said that the government had made proper law to facilitate Afghanistan transit trade adding that the smuggling of transit goods from Afghanistan had increased from $4 billion to $6.7 billion. He said, the government took measures to curb this menace and under new law it had also prepared negative list for exports to Afghanistan.
He said, Pakistan was committed to facilitate genuine trade to Afghanistan, however added that the neghbouring country would have to pay bank guarantees equal to duties of goods and 10 percent transit fee for using Pakistani infrastructure. He said, the government wanted to ensure that the goods meant for Afghanistan do not come back to Pakistan adding that around $500 million that were earned by Pakistanis overseas was financing Afghan transit.
He said, even the State Bank of Pakistan did not intervention and even then dollar went up to Rs.330 and now it is around Rs.280 due to government measures and crackdown on hundi- hawala set ups. He said, money came back to interbank market and the situation has changed now adding the currency would further stabilized.
The minister said that the caretaker government was committed to boost exports upto $32 billion this year. He said, the export oriented would be provide energy on priority basis in winter to help boost exports. He also mentioned bumper cotton crop as 5 million bales were harvested till September and the figures would brow further and also highlighted boosting of rice exports by $1 billion as good developments for economy.
Meanwhile speaking on the occasion Caretaker Minister for Power and Petroleum Muhammad Ali said an amount of Rs 16 billion has been collected from electricity defaulters so far during ongoing crackdown against the power pilferers and defaulters.
He said the government has launched crackdown against the power pilferers that would continue adding the government has also decided to change Board of Directors (BoDs) of all power distribution companies (DISCOs). It was also decided to hand over the management of DISCOs to private sector on long term concession, he added.
The minister said despite various constraints, all out efforts were being made to ensure availability of gas to domestic, industrial and fertilizer sectors and carrying out minimum gas load-management in the coming winter season. “We have only two LNG terminals and limited natural gas but today we have finalized two LNG cargoes for December,” he said.