With a population of approximately 193 million and a GDP close to $285 billion, Pakistan continues to offer significant trade opportunities to countries and traders around the world. Keeping in view current trends in global trading environment and the trend in Pakistan’s exports, the mid-term strategic trade policy framework has been formulated through an extensive consultative process spanning over almost a year. All stakeholders in the public and private sector including Federation of Pakistan, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, district Chambers, trade associations, private businesses, academia, think tanks, trade missions, Ministries/Divisions and other government agencies were actively engaged.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has suggested that Pakistan should emerge as a centre of trade and commerce by removing barriers on its international borders as two continents, Asia and Europe are rapidly growing economically “With the rapid economic expansion of RICE countries, Russia to the north, India to the south, China and Japan to the east, and emerging Europe, there is a unique opportunity for Pakistan to emerge as a centre of trade and commerce to achieve higher levels of economic growth and reduce poverty,” Xiaohong Yang, the ADB Country Director said last year. The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Strategy 2030, which is a new long-term strategic framework for regional cooperation has also been introduced. The strategy is aimed at creating an open and inclusive regional cooperation platform that connects people, policies and projects for shared and sustainable development. CAREC has 11 members but the new strategy is aimed at strengthening coordination with other international and regional cooperation mechanisms including China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Georgia are members of CAREC. This platform is very much aligned with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and both regional initiatives are natural partners of each other. CAREC’s new strategy recognises the importance of economic ties with non-member neighbouring countries and will coordinate activities with relevant entities, especially in commercial and academic spheres. A main stumbling block to Pakistan’s Endeavour to reach Central Asia is Afghanistan, according to analysts. Kabul wants access to India in return for clearing the route for Pakistan to Central Asian Republics. CAREC forum could contribute to long-term political and economic stability, thereby creating a peace dividend, adding it could provide the impetus for maintaining a stable and sustained growth, which was needed to alleviate poverty and keep Pakistan moving forward.
Since Pakistan joined CAREC seven years ago, the country has benefited from regional connectivity investments worth $1.5 billion, of which the ADB has provided $800 million. Roads have been developed, railway strategies are being prepared and energy projects are under way.
Pakistan is at the forefront towards becoming the next economic hub in the region due to its favourable geo-strategic and economic position. Pakistan is passing through a phase of economic transformation, especially with the implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will revolutionize national and international trade, development and will certainly generate huge employment opportunities across the country.
Pakistan maintained a trade surplus with all neighbouring countries, except India last year. Regional trade remained in favour of Pakistan by and large, which is a result of higher exports during the first two months of 2017. The annual increase in Pakistan’s overall exports in July-August was 11.8 per cent.
Indian exports to Pakistan in the period as mentioned above rose 12 percent to $216 million. In contrast, Pakistan’s exports to India declined 35.3 percent to $58 Million, resulting in a bilateral trade deficit of $158 Million.
Exports to Afghanistan rose 66 Percent to $213.5 Million in July-August. Imports from the country over the same period amounted to just $15 Million, resulting in a bilateral trade surplus of more than $198 Million. Pakistan exported goods worth $5 Million to Iran in July-August, down 17.4 percent year-on-year. Imports from the country in 2016-17 amounted to just $236,000. Exports to Bangladesh were $105 Million, up to 4 percent from a year ago in the first two months of 2017. Imports from Bangladesh grew almost 60 percent to $6.5 Million over the same period.
Pakistan exported goods worth $49.3 Million to Sri Lanka in July-August, up more than 31 percent year-on-year. Imports from the country during the same period increased 21 percent to $11.1 Million.