Dagha demands low Aussie tariffs

Staff Report
ISLAMABAD: The 7th session of Pakistan Australia joint trade committee was held at Canberra in Australia on 4th of December, an official statement said on Sunday, whereat wide ranging issues including market access to Pakistan goods, trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan and business visa issues were taken up.

With regards to bilateral trade between Australia and Pakistan, commerce secretary Mohammad Younus Dagha stated that Pakistan exports to Australia have not achieved the potential due to tariff differential faced by Pakistani exporters.

He argued that products originating from Bangladesh are subject to zero duty because of it being a least developed country and at the same time China enjoys zero duty because of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia.

He underscored the need for a level playing field for Pakistani products in Australian market and suggested that Pakistan should either be accorded the developing country status with zero tariffs on its items of prime export interest or both sides should strive for an FTA.

As an interim measure he suggested that an early harvest program may be negotiated between the two sides and exchange concessions on priority items.

The Australian side acknowledged that Pakistani goods are facing higher tariffs but explained that they were in the process of phasing out their most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, however they agreed to consider Pakistan’s proposal of creating a level playing field either through a formal arrangement or may be through change of category in the developing country tariffs of the Australian system of tariff preferences.

Dagha also raised the issue of travel advisory for Pakistan and non-issuance of business visa for Pakistani businessmen which are impeding trade between the two. The Australian side conceded that this issue was a long standing demand of Pakistan side and agreed to take up with the authorities concerned.

Both sides agreed that current level of trade and investment between the two countries does not commensurate with the potential and underlined the need to find ways and means to enhance trade.

Dagha expressed his satisfaction over the increasing trends in bilateral trade. It was informed that trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan are re-emerging in the wake of China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC).

The presentation highlighted that Pakistani economy has been growing at a fast pace and the macroeconomic indicators and inward investment into the country provide positive signals for foreign investors.

Commerce secretary Dagha also held meeting with trade, tourism and investment assistant minister Keith Pitt and highlighted the issues of market access for Pakistan goods especially on textile and agriculture products.

Pitt promised to look into the issues positively.

Dagha during the visit held meetings with leading businessmen including Macquarie Capital managing director Jason Lang, New South Wales (NSW) chairman of the Australia Arab chamber of commerce and industry Mohammad Hage, Asian Australia business council president Frank Alafaci, Oracle Netsuite general manager Graeme Burt and owners of other Australian businesses.

During these meetings, commerce secretary appreciated the role of the business community in forging growing bilateral economic relations and also highlighted the economic potential of Pakistan and investment opportunities arising out of the positive economic developments in the country.

He stressed the need for increasing bilateral trade engagement between the two countries through the exchange of business delegations.

The Pakistan delegation was led by Dagha and Australian side was led by Aussie department of foreign affairs and trade first assistant-secretary Kathy Klugman.