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Improving Regional Trade to Support Pakistan’s Economic Growth

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad, USAID Pakistan Trade Project

Regional trade has been an important factor in the economic success of many countries. Within most trading blocs, intra-regional trade composes 40 percent or more of these countries’ individual trade; however, for the regional arrangements of which Pakistan is a member, intra-regional trade composes less than 5 percent. Pakistan’s strategic location is its greatest asset, but it has not leveraged this to its advantage.Until the 1960’s, Pakistan was a rather forward looking country. Our manufactured exports were higher than the manufactured exports of the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Since the mid 1960’s, our policies have not been favourable to promoting trade and economic development.

In 1965 we stopped trading with our Eastern neighbor India. In the early 1970’s, Pakistan nationalized all major industrial and services establishments, leading inefficient industries to begin demanding higher protection. As a result, exports stagnated. There are still 65 State Owned Enterprises and their yearly losses are estimated at Rs. 500 billion. While other competing countries have espoused liberal trade regimes since the 1980’s, resorting to protectionism only on a selective basis, Pakistan turned inward and started to rely on import substitution policies. Pakistan should revisit its regional and global trade policies. Our country needs to fully embrace trade with India and Central Asia by opening up more routes and acceding to the TIR convention. Pakistan’s ports can provide Central Asia with the shortest land route to sea, and there is tremendous export potential among the Central Asian markets. With regard to global trade, we must restructure our taxation policies and look for ways to integrate our comparative advantages within global supply chains. Pakistan has to reassess the current protectionism and state-ownership of key sectors that is stifling our economy and undermining our ability to compete on the global market.

About the presenter:

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad is the Regional Trade Advisor for the USAID Pakistan Trade Project, based in Islamabad. He is also a Senior Fellow at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in Geneva, a Member of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) in Washington DC, a Member of the Brains Trust of EvianGroup@IMD, Lausanne and an Advisor and Board Member of the Institute of Policy Reforms, Lahore.

Dr. Manzoor’s previous assignments include working as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (2002-2008), as Director, FAO Liaison Office Geneva (2008-2010), and as the Chief Executive of World Trade Advisors (2010-2013). Dr. Manzoor has worked as Chair or Member on several WTO dispute panels and has also published numerous papers on issues relating to international trade, trade facilitation and food security. Dr. Manzoor has worked extensively on regional trade issues including promotion of India-Pakistan trade and improving Pakistan’s regional connectivity with Central Asian countries.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 3/26/2014 03:00:00 PM,

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