GENEVA — World Trade Organization members urged Pakistan in a review forum to push ahead with reform efforts to strengthen its economy and the global competitiveness of its goods, which includes a new five-year policy to revamp the country’s important textile and apparel sector by 2019.
“We encourage Pakistan to keep pressing forward with economic reforms that make Pakistan a more attractive trade and investment partner,” Michael Punke, deputy U.S. Trade Representative, told a two-day WTO review last week of the South Asian nation’s trade regime.
Punke said bilateral trade between the U.S. and Pakistan “while healthy by any measure, still shows room for expansion,” and noted that in 2014 U.S. imports from Pakistan were $3.7 billion and U.S. exports to Pakistan were $1.9 billion. He said the U.S. views Pakistan as an important partner not only on trade issues but also in global efforts on combating terrorism, and summed up, “We view Pakistan as a positive long-term bet.”
Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, Pakistan’s secretary of commerce, told WTO delegates that in a bid to improve the business environment the government was launching a “virtual one-stop shop for multiple business registrations,” and also the rollout of “a Web-based one customs system at all customs stations in the country for risk-based automated customs clearance of cargo.”
Arbab also said the economy in fiscal year 2013-2014 grew 4.1 percent in real terms and was projected to expand 5.1 percent in fiscal 2014-2015.
A report by the WTO secretariat shows exports of textiles and apparel were valued at $13.9 billion in 2013, up from $11.7 billion in 2007, and accounted for 55.3 percent of total merchandise exports. The most important subcategories for textiles were bed and table linen at $2.9 billion and cotton yarn at $2.3 billion. For apparel, with $4.5 billion in exports, major product lines included trousers, shorts, shirts, suits, ensembles and jackets. But the report critically noted Pakistan’s exports of textiles and apparel “depend strongly on market access conditions in major trading partners, including unilateral preferences.”
Trade analysts at the WTO told WWD that Pakistan needed to reduce its dependence on a few major markets such as the European Union and the U.S., and also needed to expand the product lines of textile and apparel. The experts said a new textile policy launched in February by the ministry of textiles that aims to advance “high value-added activities and improve productivity” was a step in the right direction. The policy aims to double textile and apparel exports over the next five years to $26 billion annually, inject an additional investment of $5 billion in machinery and technology, and increase non-cotton fibers to 30 percent from 16 percent.