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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: 2023-10-09

The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce convened today at Parliament House, with Senator Zeeshan Khanzada in Chair.

Commencing the session, the Committee Chair addressed concerns raised in the media regarding Afghan Transit Trade. The Secretary Ministry of Commerce explained that Afghan exports are around 1 Billions Dollars and Imports in the current financial year have jumped to 6 billion dollars. This difference is huge and we have conveyed this alongwith statistics to Afghan Government. Pakistan Government has also taken measures, including the prohibition of certain items and the imposition of a 10% processing fee by FBR on sensitive goods in order to rectify anomalies in the Afghan Transit Trade System. These measures exclude essential commodities, and ongoing collaboration with Afghan authorities is in progress. The Government of Pakistan has mandated a bank guarantee for Afghan imports, aligning with the requirements imposed by Afghan authorities for Pakistani products transiting through Afghanistan to Central Asian republics. The commitment to supporting Afghan Transit Trade remains unwavering, with comprehensive statistics promptly shared with the Afghan side. The government has made policy decisions, and the current challenge lies in effective enforcement on the ground.

The Committee extensively discussed the UAE government's ban on the import of meat from Pakistan. The Director General of the Agro Ministry of Commerce clarified that there is no ban on meat exports to the UAE. Our Trade Counselor is in contact with UAE authorities, addressing a specific incident where a consignment failed to meet standards and was returned. The UAE has recently revised its requirements for sea transportation of fresh chilled meat from Pakistan, restricting it to vacuum-packed and modified atmosphere-packed meat. Senator Danesh Kumar expressed concerns about substandard meat exports, prompting the Ministry of Commerce to commit to a thorough inquiry and the sharing of details on the specific returned consignment. Additionally, a third-party audit of transport, storage, and processing facilities for meat products in Pakistan will be conducted in coordination with the Animal Quarantine Department.

Regarding seafood exports to the UAE, it was clarified that there is no ban. Senator Danesh Kumar raised concerns about the smuggling of fisheries worth 3 to 4 billion dollars by foreign trawlers with built-in processing plants. The Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce explained the government's focus on the fisheries and seafood sector, with a comprehensive policy expected by January next year. One Pakistani company has already begun exporting seafood to the EU, and three more companies are awaiting permits. A renewed focus on this sector could help bridge the gap between exports and imports.

The Committee was also briefed on the export potential of G1 Garlic. Representatives of G1 Garlic growers highlighted its advantages, including a better shelf life and being four times larger than other local varieties. With government support, this product could be developed for export within 3 to 4 years. The Ministry expressed its commitment to supporting farmers through agricultural extension services and providing initial funding for training and capacity building. Potential export markets include Africa and Indonesia, following self-sufficiency in garlic production.

The latest status of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement was presented to the Committee. The Secretary of Commerce emphasized the need to address anomalies and enhance the benefits of the agreement. A review committee is being activated to address issues within the framework of the Free Trade Agreement. The Secretary highlighted challenges in realizing the full benefits of the agreement, citing inconsistencies in policy and the need for long-term planning. The Committee acknowledged the need for supporting local industries for value addition and reducing the export of raw materials.

The Committee meeting was attended by Senators Danesh Kumar, Palwasha Muhammadzai Khan, Nuzhat Sadiq, Secretary Ministry of Commerce, DG Agro, officials from TDAP, and NARC.