LAHORE: Federal Minister for Commerce Engineer Khurram Dastgir has said that formal import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) will start in 2015 as work to develop required infrastructure is in full swing.
The Federal Minister was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday. LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari presented the business community point of view while LCCI former Presidents Bashir A Buksh, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Mian Anjum Nisar, Shahid Hassan Sheikh Muhammad Ali Mian and Irfan Qaiser Sheikh also spoke on the occasion.
The Federal Minister said that the import of LNG would help supplement government efforts to mitigate gas shortage in the country.
Citing the examples of China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India, the Federal Minister said that the progress and prosperity would remain a dream without liberalizing the trade regime therefore strenuous efforts were being made to liberalize trade regime of the country. He however, made it clear that all the future Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) would be done would a complete research and a proper homework.
Engineer Khurram Dastgir said that serious efforts were being done to overcome the challenges of extremism and energy shortage. He said that only because of these two issues the country could not get its due place in the international marketplace.
He said that the mistakes committed during 1994 to 2013 on the economic front were being rectified through a collective approach and a collective wisdom.
The Minister said that work to generate electricity through coal was in advance stage as it was only way to get rid of costly thermal electricity. He said that the country energy mix would be reversed to ensure relief to the masses.
Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari appreciated the government for giving required focus toward the economic issues. He said that the business community would continue to supplement government efforts aimed at progress and prosperity.
The LCCI President urged the Minister to direct the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan to collaborate with the Chambers of Commerce and Industry before finalizing its foreign delegations and exhibition in foreign destinations.
The LCCI President also called for early establishment of regional offices of Director General Trade Organizations to facilitate the private sector.
The LCCI President said that low level of foreign direct investment, inflationary pressures, high mark up rate, foreign & domestic debts, capital flight, budgetary deficit, trade imbalance, high cost of business, circular debt and low tax-to-GDP ratio are few of the issues, we are facing as a nation.
He said that these factors do cause inconvenience to government in making both ends meet but it is the business community which has to bear the toll in the form of tight fiscal and monetary policies which hardly allow businesses to grow at will.
He said that the real worry is that the structure of our imports dominated by oil and consumer goods is not capable of supporting long-term economic growth capacity.
He said that the government overall approach to trade development should be based on trade facilitation. We have been proposing that export development fund must be spent in this connection but no major breakthrough has been made so far.
He said that we need greater diversification in the structure and direction of our trade. Producing far few goods for far few markets is not going to strength the economy of Pakistan.
The LCCI President said that our focus should be on greater value addition and entry into new markets like Africa, South America and the Islamic world.
He called for well thought out trade policy with both short term and long term targets. We have to utilize all available options to give maximum projection to Pakistani goods in international markets in best possible manner.
He suggested that TDAP should actively organize trade fairs and exhibitions in such markets which are not fully exploited. For this purpose, some strategic reorientation in the functioning of Trade Development Authority and in the disbursement of Export Development Fund is essential.
He said that Export Development Fund should be made more aligned with the overall objectives of Strategic Trade Policy Framework. Special focus should be placed on export-oriented firms that are predominantly small & medium enterprises.
He said that it is also essential to revamp the disbursement of EDF for research & development activities of innovative growth firms and for performance oriented trade associations.
He stressed the need to consistently expand the country’s market access. Pakistan should actively enter into Free Trade Agreements and Preferential Trade Agreements with countries where it has a clear and mutual comparative competitive advantage.
He proposed the creation of country-level and regional FTA/PTA Advisory Councils involving the representatives of private sector and officials of the Ministry of Commerce for exploring all avenues to benefit from such agreements.
He said that Lahore is set to become a major cross-road trading and business city in South Asia in the wake of growing trade liberalization in the region and between Pakistan and India.
He said that it is about time that we seriously improve our trade readiness especially involving the trade related infrastructure at Wagha Border which is critical for achieving the ambition of greater trade between Pakistan and India as well as in the region.
He informed the Federal Minister that the LCCI has established a Mediation Centre in August 2012 with active collaboration of IFC. There are more than 40 accredited mediators registered with LCCI who can help the local, national and international businessmen for out of the court settlement.