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ISLAMABAD: The Commerce Ministry Thursday said it is closely monitoring the situation with Iran and in this regard a meeting with trade officials of Pakistan embassy has been lined up to strategize future course of action.

This was stated by Commerce Secretary Sualeh Ahmad Faruqui while responding to a question regarding strategy with respect to Iran, after attacks on alleged terrorist hideouts by the two countries.

“We are monitoring the situation and have planned a meeting with Pakistan’s trade team in Iran on Friday (today). The Pakistani team will brief Commerce Ministry on current situation,” he said adding that it is premature to say anything about Pakistan-Iran bilateral trade at present.

Pakistan recalls ambassador from Iran, expels Iranian envoy after air strike

However, Senator Danesh Kumar who hails from Balochistan apprised the Committee that informal trade in Iranian petrol and diesel has stopped after the recent escalation between the two countries.

He also grilled Commerce Ministry for not sharing its strategy to achieve $ 100 billion export target, a claim which was made by the caretaker Minister for Commerce, Industries and Investment Gohar Ijaz.

He maintained that caretaker Minister was not attending Standing Committee meetings after the Committee raised the $ 100 billion exports target as an agenda item.

However, Secretary Commerce clarified that the caretaker Minister is unwell since he returned from his African tour and he is not attending office and is currently being administered a drip. Responding to questions raised by the Standing Committee, Secretary Commerce said that the Ministry is preparing a policy to increase exports of mineral and marble industry, fisheries sector and textiles.

He said, a study is being prepared to increase exports in value added items instead of raw mineral exports which will be shared with the Committee. The government will extend all incentives to industries engaged in value addition of raw minerals.

He further contended that income from raw material exports is low while value addition will generate additional income. Policy will be brought for chrome mining and processing in Muslim Bagh(Balochistan), he added.

Secretary Commerce also apprised the Committee that a fish harbor will be built in Balochistan. Deputy Chairman Senate Mirza Muhammad Afridi and Senator Danesh Kumar suggested that the government formulate a policy to extend loan facility for fisheries processing plant and cold storage. Secretary Commerce clarified that the government cannot make any allocation over and above the agreements with International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Joint Secretary (Commerce), Usman Qureshi explained that State Bank of Pakistan gave loans of Rs 11 billion to fisheries sector last year.

Some of the Senators argued that only the government can approve low interest loan for fisheries.

The Committee recommended to the caretaker Prime Minister to release antique cars lying at ports since years after the Commerce Ministry’s three attempts to get its approval from the Cabinet failed.

In response to a question of Senator Salim Mandviwalla, he explained that export of live donkeys is not allowed, adding that donkey’s meat is not yet being exported from Pakistan to China.

However, donkey meat exports to China, as per an official of Ministry of National Food Security and Research, will commence after a donkey slaughter house established at Gwadar becomes operational. China is also starting donkey farming in Pakistan, he added.

Senator Salim Mandviwalla claimed that according to Pakistan survey, Pakistan is exporting donkeys to China. However, it was clarified by Senate Danesh Kumar and Commerce Ministry officials that Economic Survey had just mentioned number of donkeys.

The Committee recommended that Department of Plant Protection (DPP), an Organization of Ministry of National Food Security and Research be transferred to Commerce Ministry, as it has a key role in exports and imports. The Organization has just 26 officers stationed at different places.

Regarding a recommendation of the committee, it was revealed that the proposal to identify 12 locations for trade with Afghanistan had been earmarked but rejected by the Afghan side. The Committee was also informed that there is no restriction on the import of steel rod and iron while an attempt is being made to reduce tariff of raw materials however due to the IMF set tax target further relief has stopped in the tariff lines.

Secretary of Commerce noted that a transit agreement has been reached with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but Afghanistan has not signed an agreement.

“Our position is that Afghanistan should not charge a fee for transit trade,” he added. In the meeting of the Standing Committee, serious concern was expressed over the increasing price of onions in the country but when the members of the committee recommended a ban on onion exports, the Commerce Secretary said that they cannot impose a ban immediately in the context of price fluctuations.

“We have set a minimum export price of onions at 1200 dollars; and the price of onions has not increased due to exports. Local administration should take steps to reduce its price,” he averred.

The standing committee decided that implementation on the remaining recommendations will be reviewed in the next meeting. In the committee meeting, the Amendment Bill 2023 of Imports and Exports introduced by Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, Senator Faisal Saleem Rehman and Senator Muhammad Abdul Qadir in the Senate session held on November 6, 2023 was also reviewed. Senator Danesh Kumar chaired the committee meeting to review this agenda.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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