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ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has approved the lifting of the ban imposed on the import of about 33 classes/ categories of goods covering more than 860 products/ tariff lines.

The meeting of the ECC presided over by the finance minister, on Friday, also approved amendments in the LNG Policy 2011 for exemption from mandatory Third-Party-Access (TPA) to new LNG terminals. A day after announcement of the government’s decision to lift ban on luxury and non-essential items, a summary was moved by the Ministry of Commerce for the approval on prohibition/ complete quantitative restrictions on the import of non-essential and luxury items.

The ministry stated that a ban was imposed on the import of about 33 classes/ categories of goods covering more than 860 products/ tariff lines on 19th May 2022, and trading partners raised serious concern on the ban on import.

The ministry contended that considering the fact that the ban has impacted supply chains and the domestic retail industry, the ECC decided that the ban may be lifted on all the items.

Further, the ECC recommended the release of those held-up consignments that arrived after 30th June up to 31st July 2022 with payment of the surcharge.

The Commerce Ministry further informed the ECC that immediately after the imposition of the ban, the business community including the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry raised their concerns and started approaching the Ministry of Commerce for relaxation of the ban and release of their held-up consignments. As an immediate relief, the ECC and the Cabinet allowed the release of those shipments which have reached any port in Pakistan on or before 30 June 2022 subject to payment of penalty.

Additionally, the analysis of the import data shows that there is a declining trend of imports since the imposition of the ban on 19th May 2022 with major contributors to this reduction by auto CBU and Mobile CBU imports and remaining spreads over 810 tariff lines.

Miftah announces to remove import restrictions, but with a caveat

The meeting was further told that serious concerns raised by major trading partners on the imposition of the ban and considering the fact that the ban has impacted supply chains and domestic retail industry, a review meeting attended by chairman FBR, governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and representatives of ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industries has taken the decisions and submitted the proposals for consideration of the ECC of the Cabinet.

The meeting proposed, according to the Commerce Ministry that; (i) ban imposed vide SRO 598(1)2022 dated 19 May 2022 may be revoked for all items except for Auto CBU, Mobile CHU and Home Appliances CBUs;(ii) however, temporary import-cum-export of Auto CBU may be allowed for exhibition, display test or trial purposes.

ATA Carnet and under TIR Convention as per provisions of IPO 2022; (iii) Import of samples of mobile CBU may be allowed for mobile device manufacturers for research and development purposes on the recommendations of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority; (iv) industrial appliances falling within the PCT Codes of Home Appliances CBU and appliances imported by government departments through vendors, hospitals and registered charity organizations would be exempted from the ban.

The ECC was also requested that the decision of the Cabinet is solicited for the release of those held-up consignments which arrived 30 June 2022 up to the date of notification of removal of the ban. Previously, all such held-up consignments (including Auto and Mobile CBUs) which arrived at the ports till 30 June 2022 were released subject to payment of the surcharge. The meeting was requested that appropriate directions may be given as to whether release all held-up consignments or consignments other than those listed above.

On a summary moved by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) regarding amendments in the LNG Policy 2011 for exemption from mandatory TPA to new LNG terminals, the ECC approved the proposal to exclude new LNG terminals and associated facilities from the application of TPA and allowed amendment in article 6.2(a) of LNG Policy, 2011. The ECC was informed that the gap between gas supply and demand in the country is widening, resulting in gas load management affecting economic activities.

Under the circumstances and to diversify the LNG import infrastructure, there is a need to support and encourage foreign/ private investment in the new LNG terminals at their own costs and risks to meet the growing demand of RLNG in the country.

The ECC has directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research for resubmission of the summary for the allocation of 300,000 MT of wheat for the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) after incorporating complete details of incidental charges and comments of the Finance Division.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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