Islamabad, Dr. Gohar Ejaz, Minister for Commerce and Industry, was joined by the Information Minister, the Interior Minister, and the Energy Minister in a press conference following the 6th meeting of the Apex Committee of the SIFC. The press conference was convened to unveil significant developments and strategic initiatives in the realm of trade and industry.
During the press conference, Dr. Gohar Ejaz made several announcements and shared crucial insights. He revealed that Pakistan has achieved a historic milestone in its trade relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by successfully finalizing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This marks the first FTA that the GCC has entered into with any country in the past 14 years.
Dr. Gohar Ejaz highlighted the substantial trade volume between GCC countries, amounting to $1 trillion in exports and $550 billion in imports. In stark contrast, Pakistan’s trade with GCC countries currently stands at $19 billion in imports and a mere $2 billion in exports.
Commending the pivotal role played by Saudi Arabia in facilitating the conclusion of the FTA, the Commerce Minister announced an agreement to provide technical certification to Overseas Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia, enabling them to comply with Saudi regulations effectively.
“To boost exports, the government is committed to providing uninterrupted energy to the industrial sector,” said Dr. Ejaz. He also announced a significant achievement in curbing smuggling through the Afghanistan transit trade. The transit trade volume, which was $4 billion in 2022, surged to $6.7 billion in 2023, revealing a $2.7 billion increase attributable to smuggling due to the closure of Letters of Credit (LCs).
Under the new trade policy, Afghan traders will be required to provide 100 percent of the value of goods as a bank guarantee and 10 percent as a transit fee, aimed at saving 1 trillion rupees in tax evasion. The minister highlighted a concerted government effort to combat the illegal hundi/hawala system and curb dollar flight, which has been successfully carried out.
Emphasizing that overseas Pakistanis’ remittances cannot be allowed to be wasted in the trade of smuggled goods, the Commerce Minister announced an ambitious export target of $32 billion for the current fiscal year. This target is supported by a record cotton yield, with expectations of a bumper crop of 12 million bales. This surplus cotton is projected to result in savings of $3 billion for the federal Exchequer.
Dr. Gohar Ejaz expressed unwavering confidence in the government’s strategic initiatives and the dedication of various ministries and institutions in achieving these goals. He underscored the profound importance of these developments in advancing Pakistan’s economic growth and international trade standing.