Pakistan needs trade, not aid

- www.ft.lk

Following is the speech delivered by Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at the inauguration of the Expo Pakistan 2011 – Karachi on 19 October:
I am delighted to welcome you all to the sixth Expo Pakistan. This event has become an annual event held at the cosmopolitan city of Karachi to showcase the complete range of quality products and services offered by Pakistan. It is heartening to see such a large gathering of foreign guests and I wish them all a pleasant stay in Pakistan.

I had declared 2010-2011 as the year of exports. It is most gratifying that we achieved the milestone of US$ 25 billion in exports this year. Of course, it was made possible through the combined efforts of the public and private sector and in this regard I would like to compliment the Ministry of Commerce and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the stakeholders whose collective efforts have made us proud in making this year truly the year of exports. We do realise the hardships of the business communities which are facing severe problems in the face of energy outages and still they have outperformed. It is the ingenuity and hard work of the Pakistani entrepreneurs that made the difference.
Having said this, the democratic Government is fully cognisant of these difficulties and is taking appropriate steps to overcome all such problems to facilitate the undertaking of businesses in the country.
I performed the groundbreaking of the Daimer-Basha Dam only yesterday, which would not only add 4,500 megawatts to the national grid, but also provide a solution in controlling floods and provide sufficient water to the country’s irrigated vast cultivable lands.
On the global scene, a major shift is surely but steadily taking place through economic redistribution amongst the world community. Most observers agree that economic gaps between the West and the Asian economies are shrinking to the advantage of Asia.
In particular, our neighbours, especially China, are seen as the engine of growth for the world economy in the coming decades. They are heading with nearly double-digit growth rates, bringing millions of their citizens out of the shackles of poverty as their economies generate wealth at a worth-mentioning pace.
In Pakistan, the growth rate is not at a desirable level due to multiple problems. However, this year’s remarkable growth in exports is a testimony to the great potential of our export sector, which demonstrates the country’s capability and indeed refutes the notion of a sluggish economy. It clearly establishes the resilience of our businessmen and the economy.
While the leaders of our industry help lead our country on the path of prosperity, it is imperative that we provide them the most effective and timely support for making businesses more competitive and attractive. In this regard, the President and I have been emphasising that Pakistan needs trade, not aid.
Our Government has made concerted efforts to acquire better market access for Pakistani products in the world markets. The EU’s offer at the WTO to Pakistan for duty free access to goods from 75 tariff lines is just one example of such endeavours of our Government. By 2014, Pakistan expects to qualify and benefit from the EU’s import preferential treatment under the GSP Plus regime, allowing duty free access for all the products of our export.
Pakistan has already entered into preferential and free trade agreements with China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Iran and Mauritius. I would strongly urge our exporters to take full advantage of the market access opportunities of the bilateral agreements. We are also making concerted efforts to enhance regional trade with our neighbours. Recently-held trade talks between India and Pakistan are going in a positive direction.
The Ministry of Commerce announced a three-year Strategic Trade Policy Framework to provide a long-term policy framework of sustainable businesses. This would enable them to plan expansion and growth. As we move forward, I would urge the concerned government agencies to simplify procedures, reduce red tape and enhance transparency and efficiency to create a business-friendly environment.
I am happy to note that meaningful headway has been made in this regard by the people’s Government. A recent acknowledgment of this fact is a World Bank Report ‘Ease of Doing Business in South Asia,’ which has ranked Pakistan as one of the attractive investment destinations in the region.
Pakistan is endowed with exceptional human and natural resources, which offer excellent opportunities for developing mutually-beneficial businesses. However, there is a need to harness the potential to the full extent in order to give impetus to our economy. Pakistan is facing the menace of terrorism at home and in our neighbourhood, but I would venture to say that Pakistan is still an attractive country for doing business.
To illustrate this, the recent experience of a Spanish company, El Cortes Ingles, is worth mentioning. This multibillion-dollar company with a large network of departmental stores in Europe visited Pakistan on the invitation of TDAP with more than 30 buyers last year. They found a large range of competitive products of high quality.
The company’s Chief Executive wrote: “Perhaps it is not the level of insecurity but the view that the media gives to Western citizens, which restrains their travelling to Pakistan.”
Resultantly, the Spanish company appointed an exclusive buying agent for Pakistan and orders have already started to pour in. I am confident that those foreign friends, who have chosen to be our guests at this Expo, will also be pleasantly surprised to find Pakistan a profitable place to do business.
In the end, I would like to commend the competence of our exporters and entrepreneurs for their admirable performance. I would also like to thank the business community for their assistance and support to the Government’s efforts for rehabilitation of flood-affected people.
I expect the exhibitors at this Expo to play the role of our trade ambassadors. They should not only showcase and market quality products and services but also practice the best business ethics. The focus should be to build long-term business relations with our customers abroad with a view to establish ‘Made in Pakistan’ as a reliable brand.

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