Pak-Australia JTC for enhancing bilateral trade

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Australia Joint Trade Committee on Sunday underlined the need for find ways and means to enhance bilateral trade among both the countries as current level of trade and investment between the two countries were not commensurate with the existing potential.

Consensus to this regard was developed in the 7th session of Pakistan Australia Joint Trade Committee was held at Canberra, Australia, where Pakistani delegation was led by Secretary Ministry of Commerce Mohammad Younus Dagha,and Australian side was led by Ms Kathy Klugman, First Assistant-Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Commerce wide ranging of issues including market access to Pakistani goods, trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan and business visa were taken up during the meeting. Secretary Commerce highlighted the trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan emerging in the wake of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He highlighted that Pakistani economy had been growing at a fast pace and the macroeconomic indicators and inward investment into the country provide positive signals for foreign investors.

With regard to bilateral trade between Australia and Pakistan, the Secretary Commerce said that Pakistan exports to Australia have not achieved the potential due to tariff differential faced by Pakistani exporters.

He argued that products originating from Bangladesh are subject to zero duty because of it being a Least Developing Country and at the same time China enjoys zero duty because of a Free Trade Agreement with Australia.

He underscored the need for a level playing for Pakistani products in Australian market and suggested that Pakistan should either be accorded Developing Country Status with zero tariffs on its items of prime export interest or both sides should strive for a Free Trade Agreement.

As an interim measure he suggested that an Early Harvest Program may be negotiated between the two sides and exchange concessions on priority items.

The Australian side acknowledged that Pakistani goods are facing higher tariffs but explained that they were in the process of phasing out their MFN tariffs, however they agreed to consider Pakistan’s proposal of creating a level playing field either through a formal arrangement or may be through change of category in the Developing Country tariffs of the Australian System of Tariff Preferences.

He also raised the issue of travel advisory for Pakistan and non-issuance of business visa for Pakistani businessmen which are impeding trade between the two. The Australian side conceded that this issue was a long standing demand of Pakistan side and agreed to take up with the authorities concerned.

Secretary Commerce also held meeting with the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt and highlighted the issues of market access for Pakistan goods especially on textile and agriculture products. The Minister also promised to look into the issues positively.