Published On: Thu, Oct 22nd, 2015

Pakistan eyes preferential trade agreement with Canada


KARACHI: Pakistan hopes that the political change in Canada may help the country to revive its sagging exports as it eyes a preferential trade agreement with the North American nation, said a senior official.

“The political change [in Canada] is likely to bring positive…we are looking forward to a preferential trade agreement,” said Robina Athar, Additional Secretary (Trade Diplomacy) at the Ministry of Commerce.

On October 19, 2015, Liberal Party of Canada’s Justin Trudeau dealt a blow to Conservatives’ Stephen Harper in the general elections.

Liberal candidates won 184 seats or ‘ridings’ – 14 more than what are needed for a majority. Two of the ridings were also secured by Pakistani women.

Trudeau, on the Pakistan’s Independence Day occasion in August 2015, paid, “tribute to the important contributions that Pakistani-Canadians have made to our country.”

“We are stronger not in spite of our differences, but precisely because of them,” he said.

Pakistan’s immigrants in Canada are very happy on the Liberal victory.

“This will hopefully pave the way for strong bonding between the two countries,” said a Pakistani-Canadian, requesting anonymity.

Office bearer Imran Rauf at the Pakistan-Canada Business Council keeps his fingers crossed.

“Confidence will be built,” Rauf is sure. He said Liberals will bring a positive change.

Presently, the Pakistan-Canada economic relationship is not pretty impressive. The bilateral trade accounts for a modicum one percent, or less, share in Pakistan’s total annual exports of US$25 billion and imports of US$48 billion.

The State Bank of Pakistan’s data showed that the country’s exports to Canada amounted US$241.99 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, while its imports stood at US$289.01 million.

For the last three fiscal years, the figures remained somehow the same.

Pakistan’s incumbent government is desperate to restrain its falling exports, which are on the downward trend. Exports dropped five percent in US dollars value in the last fiscal year of 2014/15 because of the mainly energy crisis, internal security challenges and subdued demand of the country’s textiles and rice in the foreign markets.

Pakistan’s major exports to Canada include textile and leather products, animal gut and harness and travel goods while its imports are oil seeds, edible vegetables, wood articles, machinery and nuclear reactors.

A trade analyst said agrifoods, chemicals and durable consumer goods, especially furniture are the principal imports of Canada, “for which Pakistan can increase its share.”

Likewise, he added that Pakistan can bargain for Canadian main imports, such as telecommunications equipment, fertilisers, plastics and more.

“We should show our presence every year in an exhibition in Canada to tap opportunities for mutual benefits,” said Rauf, who is running a chemical and textile business.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has planned to lead a businessmen delegation to North America’s premier agrifood event ‘SIAL, Canada’ to be held in Montreal in April 2016.

Qamar Anjum, Director General (America’s fairs) at TDAP said the participation depends on visas and the purpose of a fair.

“We could not arrange visas in 2014,” Anjum said.

He said generally Canadian exhibitions are very specialised, showcasing hunting equipment, fisheries products and all, while “we look for textile and foods.”

He said the responses in 2015 exhibition were not encouraging.

“For SIAL, we’ll give an advertisement and if interest will be there only then we’ll participate,” said DG TDAP, which attends 60 to 80 international fairs every year.

Athar of commerce ministry said an exhibition works for rapport building, “but traders already know much about an established market.”

“We are presently focusing on central Asia and FTAs (free trade agreements) with Thailand, Korea and other countries,” she said.

Pakistan’s government is figuring out how to materialise an ambitious power transmission project to bring 1,000 to 1,300 megawatts of electricity from Tajikistan via its neighbouring Afghanistan. It has also planned to import gas from Tajikistan through the same route. But, both the projects have not been materialised for long.


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Shahid Tariq

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