LAHORE - Amid continuous decline in exports, the business community has asked the government to take businessmen on board in preparing policies to enhance exports so that fast widening trade deficit could be controlled.

APBF President Ibrahim Qureshi said the country’s exports declined by 13.26% during the first eight months of the current fiscal year, losing around $2 billion. The exports declined by 4.73 % in February 2016 to $1.791 billion. He said that trade deficit surged by 10.68% to 22.09 billion dollars in 2014-15 from 19.963 billion dollar in the preceding fiscal year- the record highest trade imbalance in last over 35 years.

APBF president said the delay in trade policy is also causing heavy losses to the business community amid acceleration in economic activities. Announcement of policy was due in July 2015, but later got postponed for some unknown reasons. The business community is still waiting for announcement. The expected policies could revive both domestic and foreign trade and may boost exports. “The trade imbalance in favour of China is highly alarming. Free Trade Agreements signed with some of the countries appear to have been playing a major role for this imbalance.”

He stated that Pakistan’s exports have been stagnant at $24 billion for the last many years. GCCI president Samee Ullah Ch observed that the record trade gap is happening despite the fact that Pakistan is enjoying preferential access to the EU market under GSP Plus and interest rate is also lower at home while oil prices are constantly declining.

Samee Ullah Ch said that Pakistan’s exports base and markets are extremely narrow. More than 55% of its exports earnings are contributed by the cotton group while leather, synthetic made-ups and rice contribute around 14% of total exports. Unfortunately, these items are relatively low value-added products.

He said that international image building and formation of new trade specific export promotion agencies having independent budgets and policies was direly needed. He added that though energy shortage and law and order kept the economy hostage during the last many years, yet the government should have a clear vision on the economic issues, to help resolve the problems of export oriented industry at the earliest.

FPCCI former president Mian Idrees urged the government that all stakeholders be taken on board while preparing industry related policies, and asserted that industrial estates be exempted from loadshedding of gas and electricity to meet the local market and export targets.

Mian Idrees said the government should also facilitate the exporters and implement all trade facilitations in letter and spirit enshrined in trade policies.