Top Stories - Import of 263 non-FTA items: China withdraws offer
ISLAMABAD (December 23, 2010) : China has reportedly withdrawn its unilateral offer to facilitate import of an additional 263 items from Pakistan out of Free Trade Agreement (FTA), sources in Commerce Ministry told Business Recorder. In the middle of current year, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood had announced before the Advisory Council of Trade Policy that China would facilitate import of a number of additional items out of FTA.
"I have good news for the business community that China has offered to allow export of additional items from Pakistan out of FTA unilaterally," Zafar had announced before a packed auditorium of the Planning Commission. However, this has not materialised so far as China is not ready to consider any trade concessions to Pakistan out of FTA, and on unilateral basis, sources said. Most of the items included in the 'wish list' were from the textile, engineering, and chemical sectors, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Commerce Secretary had also announced that financial impact of these additional items, if Beijing accepted the proposal, would be around 1-1.5 billion dollars per annum, on export to China. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, during his visit to Pakistan, had assured Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that four matters would be considered sympathetically. These were: (i) provision of a place for displaying of Pakistani goods in trade exhibitions, free of cost or at very cheap rates; (ii) dispatching buyers' missions for procurement for public sector; (iii) facilitation of additional Pakistani items for export to China; and (iv) training.
"What I know is that China wants to club the earlier offer with the FTA and on bilateral basis, which implies that it is not ready to honour the earlier open statement," sources added. The Commerce Secretary had proactively followed up with the Chinese government as member of President Zardari's entourage and at Free Trade Council meeting, but the result has been almost zero, sources said.
Recently, Commerce Minister Amin Fahim and Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood had interacted with President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani in respect of logistical arrangements for Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's recent visit. Both the Presidency and the Prime Minister House had entrusted the Commerce Minister and Commerce Secretary with the responsibility of overseeing the arrangements of Pak-China Business Summit by the BoI and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Insiders in the BoI said that handing over of Pak-China Business Summit arrangements to the Commerce Ministry was 'disrespectful' of the Board, which had been engaged in a number of MoUs. On a number of occasions, Pakistan lodged complaints that its exports had not been showing growth as per expectations and had requested the Chinese experts to include more Pakistani products in the FTA.
Pakistan signed a number of MoUs and agreements with China during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao. Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood was approached for comments but could not be reached despite hectic efforts through his office.