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Event Title: Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Commerce Presiding over a Meeting of the Committee at Parliament House Islamabad

Event Date: 2023-07-05

A meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Zeeshan Khanzada. At the outset of the meeting Senators Danesh Kumar and Fida Muhammad took a very strong exception to the absence of the Minister of Commerce from the meeting. Senator Nuzhat Sadiq also endorsed the point of view of the honourable senators. However, Chairman Committee requested the honourable senator Danish Kumar not to boycott the meeting and directed the Secretary Ministry of Commerce to make sure that the Minister for Commerce attends the next meeting of the committee. The committee subsequently discussed the matter of barter trade with Afghanistan, Iran and Russia. Secretary Ministry of Commerce comprehensively briefed the committee and apprised it possible avenues in this regard. The Secretary Ministry of Commerce offered compliments to Chairman for creating positives vibes Moscow regarding trade potential between Pakistan and Russia. Deputy Chairman Senate and member committee, Mirza Muhammad Afridi also attended the meeting. He floated the idea of mango export and mango diplomacy and stated that, during his visit to China he had discussed the idea of holding a three day mango festival in Urumqi China to showcase Pakistani mango varieties. He further stated that, in this regard, a letter had been written to the Ministries of Commerce and Finance, for support and cooperation. Honourable Deputy Chairman stressed that establishment of cold storage at the border was necessary to increase mango exports and lamented that last year, 54% of our mangoes’ yield wasted due to lack of cold storages and also directed the DPP (Department of Plant Protection) to take measures in this regard. Deputy Chairman Senate said that mangoes should be exported by land route instead of air route, he said that Mango diplomacy will advance by organizing the Mango Festival in Urumqi, China, and said that the Chairman Senate has also formed a committee on this through which Mangoes are sent to heads of state under Mango Diplomacy by the Prime Minister.

The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce on Wednesday received a comprehensive briefing on the recent Barter Trade Mechanism with Afghanistan, Iran and Russia. The Secretary, Ministry of Commerce said that trade with Afghanistan, Iran and Russia is affected due to various sanction, mainly related to banking/ financial transactions. He said that banks in Pakistan are reluctant to issue financial instruments for trade and the objective of barter trade is to promote trade by marginalizing the role of financial institutions and encourage shifting of informal trade to formal trade channels. He said that it is the initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Customs and said that SRO 643 has notified the mechanism of barter trade. The secretary Commerce said that the system of barter trade with these countries will be introduced on a limited scale, and also take TDAP on board to discuss barter trade with entrepreneurs. He said that the mechanism of taxes and duties will be the same and talks have started between Afghanistan and Pakistan Customs officials on the list of items from industries to include their items. The committee raised question on Barter Trade with China to which the secretary replied that there is no immediate barter trade with China, he said that we have no banking issue with China and no currency swipe issue as well. He said that the first priority for barter trade is Afghanistan, Iran and Russia, he further said that most of the trade from China is through shipping. The Chairman Committee inquired about the countries with which Pakistan can initiate Barter Trade, and also emphasized that with barter trade countries financial transactions should not be introduced complicated the trade process.  The secretary committee said that if financial transactions are included in barter trade, there will be clearance issues. He said that to improve trade we are giving transit route to many countries but not charging transit fee tax. The committee was briefed on the eligibility criteria for barter Trade including state owned enterprises Private entities, subject to conditions such as FBR’s active taxpayer list, has been subscribed to Pakistan Single Window System, and possesses a valid import and export contract registered by customs authorities in the customs computerize system (WeBOC). It was briefed that the export would be made to the extent of value of imported goods subject to the tolerance of 20 pc. And the Pakistani trader shall be responsible to net –off value of goods on quarterly basis i.e., within 90 days after issuance of authorization. List of various importable items from Afghanistan, Iran and Russia were tabled also the list of exportable items from Pakistan was mentioned which mainly included edibles such as milk cream eggs, cereals meat fish, fruit vegetables rice and confectionaries. Salt and pharmaceutical products as well as essential oils, perfumes and cosmetics toiletries were included.

The committee also discussed the ban on imports. The secretary commerce said that the ban on imports had a positive effect on the balance of trade. It was apprised that the country’s imports are down $24.5 billion this year. “Pakistan's imports have come from 80 billion dollars to 55 billion dollars” stated Secretary Trade. Senator Abdul Qadir commented that the GDP has been damaged due to stoppage of aid, GDP has come down from 6 to minus 2 and a total of 5 thousand billion was damaged to the country's economy. While raising the issue of ban on imported items Senator Abdul Qadir said that smuggling has increased with the ban on drugs, and inquired about the lifting on the ban. The secretary commerce remarked that the ministry of commerce has not imposed any ban on the imports and neither is a propagative of the ministry, however the bans were imposed by the state bank. The chairman Committee informed that the state bank imposed ban on luxurious comedies and prioritized imports for medical health and essential food items. The Chairman Committee said that the ban has now been lifted and imports are open for all products.

Earlier in the meeting the committees showed severe reservation on the absence of the Minister. The chairman Committee categorically said that the absence of the Minister is a direct humiliation to the sanctity of this August Forum and regretted such political sport on matters pertaining to the betterment of country’s economy in the present scenario. Briefing by TDAP was also deferred due to the absence of the CEO TDAP.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Chairman Senate, Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi , Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Danesh Kumar an Senator Abdul Qadir. Senior officials from the ministry of commerce TDAP and other related department were also in attendance.