Business Recorder - 11 March 2019
CPFTA-II may be finalised prior to PM’s China visit
Pakistan and China are holding 11th round of second phase of Free Trade Agreement (FTA-II) on March 12-13, 2019 in Beijing, hoping positive outcome of the much supported parlays, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.
Pakistan’s negotiation team will be headed by Shafiq Shahzad Baloch (Chief Negotiator). Other members of the team will be Yasmin Abdul Wahab, Consultant, MoC, Ghulam Qadir, Trade Economist, MoC, Khuda Bukhsh Rind, EDB, and one representative each from Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Textile Division and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The agenda of talks will be market access of trade in goods, claw back, investment text and customs data exchange. The sources said, both countries want to finalise CPFTA-II prior the second visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China scheduled in April 2019.
China has indicated that the items under zero tariff have been agreed and rice, yarn and sugar have been included in the items prior to implementation of FTA-II, and given an assurance to Islamabad that it would procure additional products worth $ 1 billion.
"China has conveyed that it is ready to work out the final details and modalities of second phase of FTA during 11th round of talks," the sources continued. The first phase of CPFTA was completed in 2012 and the two sides are presently negotiating the second phase for further liberalization. Both sides were almost ready to sign the FTA-II during Abbasi-led government, but it was deferred at the eleventh hour on the request of the business community. The then government’s action was appreciated by the business community and Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) visited the office of the then Commerce Minster, Pervaiz Malik to applaud his efforts to safeguard local industry.
Pakistan maintains that China must extend unilateral concessions on its priority export items to restore eroded Margin of Preference (MoP) which was the result of subsequent China’s FTA’s with other countries especially Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2011.
Pakistan had sought unilateral concessions on 313 items but China was willing to give concessions on only around 55 items. However, now the situation is far different due to Pakistan’s stiff stance. "We want a win-win situation for both the countries in the second phase, as the outcome of first phase has been asymmetrical resulting in huge trade deficit," said an official on condition of anonymity.