The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was held on Wednesday at Parliament House.
The meeting was chaired by Senator Zeeshan Khanzada. Members who attended were Deputy Chairman Senate, Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Palwasha Muhammad Zai Khan, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Manzoor Ahmed Kakar, Senator Abdul Qadir, and senior officers from the Ministry of Commerce along with all concerned. Senator Faisal Rehman was a special invitee. The Committee ratified his nomination as Member of the board Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP).
The agenda taken up included the impact of current situation in Afghanistan on trade between the two countries. The Committee was informed that 97 percent of Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreements (APTTA) has been formalized. In addition, despite unrest and uncertainty 500 trucks have passed through the transit route; minor hiccups prevailed. Detailed briefing on Imports and Exports from 2011-2021 and role and functions of TDAP was conducted as well.
Deliberating over imports and exports in the last decade (2011 to 2021), the Committee was informed that the trade sector despite numerous challenges has witnessed a positive trend. Between 2020 to 2021, grappling with intermittent COVID waves, it was heartening to see an all-time high in exports in Pakistan (USD 25,304 million). Members while lauding the increase in disseminates showed concern regarding imports tilting towards the higher side. The Ministry, while acknowledging the upsurge was of the view that imports were related to importing raw materials which is viewed in a positive light. For more details on exports, it was recommended that a one-agenda meeting on Tariff Rationalization be held. While appreciating the efforts and hard work of former Committee on Commerce in finalization and passage of the Geographical Indication (GI) Law, the Committee enquired about the GI Law Certification on Basmati Rice and Himalayan Pink Salt. Members were assured that the Ministry would ensure that Pakistan is awarded GI Certification for the two products. In wake of a decision otherwise, Pakistan would stringently contest the judgment to defend its stance. Reviewing the Construction Industry in Pakistan and the importance of the production of steel in it, the Committee stressed the need producing the metal via the iron ore process, which is considerably economical. An open policy for textiles and garments was recommended as well. To achieve this goal, the Ministry was directed to work alongside the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
Reviewing the TDAP mandate and structure for trade regulation in Pakistan, the Committee was given details of the various activities conducted by the Authority ranging from International marketing to awareness and capacity building of Human Resource. The Committee was informed of reorganization activities that were undertaken by TDAP; entailing the inclusion of Textile and Leather Division, Agro and Food Division, Engineering and Minerals Division and Services, Halal and New Opportunity Development Division to the list of functioning sectors to facilitate stakeholders. Discussing the TDAP Board of Directors, the Committee stressed the need meetings to be held on a quarterly basis. Chairman Committee, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada directed that a meeting of the Board must be held, without further delay, in September. Members were informed that despite numerous challenges TDAP conducted two exhibitions and 80 webinars in order to build awareness globally. The Committee stressed the need of consistency of policies for progress.