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ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel was informed on Tuesday that “the demands put forth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the government will determine the fate of the ongoing negotiations” with the fund.

When Foreign Secretary Dr Asad Majeed Khan was asked by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee led by Farooq Naek about the outcome of the ongoing talks with the IMF, he informed the panel by saying: “Although it’s the mandate of the Finance Ministry, negotiations with IMF are technical in nature and the demands which have been placed [before the government] will determine the fate of the talks.”

The remarks come following former chairman Senate and senior PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani asked the government to take the parliament into confidence on the talks with the IMF, as he feared that “it appears that Pakistan being softened up to play a role which is against its national and strategic interests.”

Staff-level pact with IMF anytime soon: MoS Aisha

“The people have the right to know if, our nuclear assets are under pressure or if our strategic relationship with China is under threat or we being called up to play role in the region which will facilitate the military presence of an imperialist power? These and other questions require a policy statement by the prime minister on the floor of a joint sitting,” Rabbani said in a press statement on Monday.

The committee also deliberated on various agenda and the steps being taken to improve the country’s foreign policy and enhance bilateral ties with various countries.

Briefing the committee, the foreign secretary also stated that the new Pakistan’s missions opened abroad will not be closed on austerity grounds by the government.

The committee deliberated upon Pakistan’s economic and trade ties with Russia and the Western countries, besides discussing the diplomatic, bilateral and trilateral initiatives to maximise Pakistan-Africa cooperation. The committee was informed that the United States, the European Union, and the UK are established export markets for Pakistan with a consistent trade surplus.

According to the FBR report, the committee was apprised that in the year 2022-22 the US, the EU and the UK made a total aggregate of $6,801.83 million, $8999.7 million and $2173.5 million exports and $3,719.14 million, $8,999.7 million and $2173.5 million imports, respectively.

These exports mainly include apparel and home textiles. Whereas major percentage of imports from the EU and the UK include machinery and electrical goods, chemicals iron and steel and from the US is pharma, surgical goods oil seeds mineral fuels and cotton.

About Russian, the committee was informed that Russia being a major regional market and trade partner, exports to Russia fell down by 31.6 percent from 2020 to 2021-22.

It was further informed that the Russian banks were removed from SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] which resulted in difficulties faced by Pakistani exporters. In the year 2021-22, a total export of $124.4 million and imports $457.3 million took place with Russia.

The committee was apprised that an MoU between the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) and M/s Prodintorg Russia for the import of wheat was signed on 8th June and the first vessel for 450,000 MT arrived at Gwadar Port on 1st March this year.

The committee was further informed that maximum measures are being taken to enhance trade with the Russian Federation including agreement on international road transport and inter-governmental commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation.

Similarly, agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters, steps taken on mutual assistance under the unified system of tariff preferences of the Eurasian Economic Union, are being finalised.

The foreign secretary maintained that Pakistan and South Africa relations are marked by a dearth of high-level interactions and exchanges. He said that the trade volume between Pakistan and Tanzania has reached US 224 million during 2021-22.

To increase the trade volume with the African countries, the committee observed that there is a need to actively participate in each other trade exhibitions and also resolve trade disputes to build the confidence of Tanzanian business community to enhance bilateral trade.

The foreign secretary also briefed the committee on the reasons, agendas and implications of the recent visit of Rafeal Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Pakistan.

He said that the visit has been useful in projecting Pakistan’s five decades of experience of safe and secure operations of civil nuclear power plants which follow the IAEA standards and guidelines.

Additionally, he added that the visit highlighted the growing cooperation between Pakistan and IAEA in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and focused on Pakistan’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

The committee was also informed that no proposal has been submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under PSDP for the year 2023-24.

Earlier, the committee showed grave concerns on the absence of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar in the committee ever since its constitution.

The meeting was attended by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Anwaarul Haq Kakar, Mohammad Tahir Bizenjo, Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti, Palwasha Khan, and Samina Mumtaz Zehri. Senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other concerned departments also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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