Covid19 has provided us an opportunity to expedite e-commerce and other electronic business and trade solutions including e-payments and e-contracts. The corresponding measures to get aligned with these solutions would ensure safe and enabling business environment in the post-pandemic scenario. The panelists including experts on trade and economy, said this while sharing their views at virtual public-private dialogue ‘Expediting Trade Facilitation Reforms for Manufacturing Sector amid Covid19’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Thursday.
Economic Advisor to The Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Salamat Ali, on the occasion, elaborated on the pertinence of using of digital technologies in Covid19 time and said that this shift has become increasingly important as it helps in cutting the cost and time faced by traders. The health and safety of customs and border officials should also be a priority and the infrastructure related gaps that lead to delay of consignments, need to be redressed.
Covid-19 Landed as an Opportunity to Expedite E-Commerce
Mr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Director General (Trade Facilitation), Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP, on the occasion informed the participants that TDAP is helping private sector to explore new market opportunities and new export destinations amid Covid19. The online accessibility of the relevant officials is part of this facilitation. He said that a deeper public private dialogue could play critical role in ascertaining the right regulatory measures during these difficult times.
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, while opening the discussion said that Covid19 provides us an opportunity to introduce interventions related to e-payments, e-signatures, and e-contracts in the overall trade processing chain. Likewise, greater reliance of traders during Covid19 on internet banking and insurance could cut trade costs, he added.
“More paper-less trade can also be made a norm through current and future free trade agreements,” Ahmed said and added further that the safety requirements and distances of both people and goods is still not properly understood by the workforce in logistics. Therefore, protection of confidential information of exporters and importers remains a concern to be addressed, he emphasized.
Secretary General, Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Ms Faiza Zubair, was of view that overall border management needs to be improved to promote bilateral and transit trade with Afghanistan. She suggested that the government should include more feedback from the private sector in future policy measures and the customs authorities of Afghanistan and Pakistan needs to work closely to make the best use of new facilities and routes at Gwadar.
Mr Manzoor Ahmed, Former Ambassador to WTO, opined that the tariffs in Pakistan are still higher as compare to other regions and even after Covid19, the government has been unable to address the trade barriers within the boundaries of the country. He suggested that we need to remove anti-export bias from the tariff structure, reduce various withholding taxes on production and trade and expedite free trade agreements with other partner countries beside building digitalization as part of these FTAs.
Mr Muneeb Sikander, Economist and Strategic Planning Expert, while moderating the session, emphasized that a focus on both current and potential exporters is important while framing trade facilitation measures. He particularly highlighted the need to support women-led businesses in trade. The participants shared their observation that inefficient animal and plant protection departments pose difficulties in meeting standards requirements of the buyers.