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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reportedly scrapped Commerce Ministry''s uninspiring three-year Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2015-18 finalised under the guidance of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after internal consultations with top aides, well informed sources told Business Recorder. "The draft STPF is not convincing. It cannot help achieve a quantum jump in exports," the sources quoted the Prime Minister as observing.
Commerce Ministry is already facing criticism from government quarters for a continuous decline in exports and is facing a dearth of competent officers as a couple of competent officers left the Ministry due to inept attitude of a top official who is now being considered for a post in Interior Ministry.
Commerce Ministry has proposed export target of $35 billion by 2017-18 with an annual growth of 14 percent. During the period of last policy ie 2012-15 cumulative exports increased from $54 billion to $74 billion against the target of $95 billion due to a decline in value of our major export items and an increase in volume. The Finance Minister, sources said, had rejected the Commerce Ministry''s proposal regarding mark-up rate subsidy on the plea that it is not effective.
Commerce Ministry, which was anxiously waiting for approval of the regional connectivity and trade diplomacy-based draft STPF, will have to work on a new three-year trade policy 2016-19. The sources said STPF 2015-18 had been finalised by the Cabinet''s sub- committee on Production and Exports headed by Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar. Other members of the committee were Minister for Commerce, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, and Ahsan Iqbal, Ministers for Industries and Production, Ghulam Murtaza Khan Jatoi.
The scrapped STPF was built on the progress achieved during the previous two policies covering the period 2009-15. According to the Commerce Ministry, STPF also covered key areas of support needed to create exportable surplus and pillars that would enable producers to achieve export targets.
Commerce Ministry had also proposed initiatives of Research and Development (R&D) and brand development support as such incentives were considered helpful for short and medium enterprises to become competitive outfits and chip in towards export enhancement. Commerce Ministry''s team responsible for the draft of the trade policy did not consult or share it with other stakeholders and did not even share it with the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce, headed by Senator Shibli Fraz.
Chairman, Shibli Fraz and Secretary Commerce, Shehzad Arbab exchanged hot words during the last meeting of standing committee as the latter refused to share the details of trade policy 2015-18; Chairman Standing Committee maintained that the policy was not based on facts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016

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