Pakistan is blessed with different natural resources and opportunities, but all we need to do is to tap them optimally with commitment. In an exclusive interview with Daily Times, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha talks about growth in exports of different sectors. According to her, a multi-pronged strategy, visionary approach and facilitative policy is required to boost the exports of the country through penetration into different markets of the world with innovative and best quality products and services.Q: What is your strategy as a top bureaucrat to lead TDAP and to facilitate exporters and traders?A: The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan is the platform for exporters and traders to set their businesses on an upward trajectory while benefiting the national economy at the same time. We believe that facilitation of the businessmen will result in strengthening of the economy through building up of strong export-orient sectors, while expanding local businesses to support them.We at TDAP get together officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Customs, and Ministry of Commerce with Traders Associations. Businessmen are very crucial stakeholders of the country who drive the country’s economy towards betterment, hence we ensure at the Authority that their issues are addressed and they are facilitated in marketing products and services of Pakistan.Promoting Pakistan’s products and services is our top priority, but it is a challenging job, from participating in exhibitions and trade fairs to signing deals with foreign buyers and businessmen, and also enhancing trade not only to a particular country but to a region to generate demand for Pakistan’s products.I don’t believe in numbers, but I am confident that the exports of Pakistan will enhance by leaps and bounds with the strategy being undertaken by the Authority and businessmen. The Authority is targeting exclusively traditional and non-traditional sectors, particularly those having potential to pay back results immediately.Q: What initiatives have you taken to enhance operations and performance of TDAP? A: TDAP is being reformed for providing every possible facility to exporters and businessmen. So, different facilitation desks have been set up mainly for the services sector, pharmaceutical and GSP Plus in order to resolve the issues of businessmen on fast track basis. We are equipping a CBI system for knowledge management at our organisation that will incorporate data from different sectors in one database, expediting the performance of the authority and its delivery to its stakeholders.Q: What are traditional sectors in which TDAP is working with?A: TDAP is determined to expand the scope of exports to different countries across the world, for which it relies on the textile sector. With the recent development of obtaining GSP Plus status, we are confident that the sector will fetch up to one billion dollars per annum. We have taken access to the EU market as a big opportunity with a vision to continue and expand penetration of our textile products in different countries of this bloc. Hence, TDAP is working to create awareness among textile millers to get certified with all international agencies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), comply with social reforms and governance at their workplaces and factories, including labour laws, fire safety and environment-friendly productions.At present, we are working to identify loopholes and have recommended big textile manufacturers to standardise themselves because it is obvious that when the tycoons of the sector enhance their level, the second and third tier companies will follow them whole-heartedly and the trend will catch on in the sector. My efforts to standardise at least 100 companies through auditing is an arduous job, and lots of funds are required to accomplish this task, but we will put in our best come what may to bring reforms in the textile sector.In commodities, rice is our major cash crop, which has earned immense reputation in different countries. Different deals have been signed between local exporters with South American businessmen. Countries like Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay have signed various deals with local exporters that will likely last many years. This commodity is very vital for spurring major growth in exports, but we need to market it in different countries and increase its production equally. These two sectors have maintained their penetration and growth in the pie of national exports but we need to grow more with pragmatic approach and meet the demands of interested buyers through promotion of our brands and markets.Q: How do you see the collaboration of traders and businessmen with TDAP?A: The attitude of traders and businessmen is praiseworthy and appreciative as far as collaboration is concerned, but more cooperation is necessary. TDAP facilitates them but it wants them to comply with standards and good practices. TDAP needs their support for setting up unified and long-term goals. It wants them to bring innovation and creativity in their products and services to make them compatible with the international markets. Q: How do you see the potential of new traditional sectors towards exports?A: Pakistan’s few sectors are highly potential, with the capacity to deliver immediately in terms of growth in exports. Among them, agro-based products are mango and citrus. The sector could tap high-end markets of the EU and USA with the introduction of technology and development of value-added products such as juice and pulp paste. Further, the recognition and standardisation of different meat products has led many businessmen of this field to get access in different countries and enhance exports of meat and poultry products. There are 14 big slaughterhouses that have got certified under the hygienic standards, whereas poultry ban has been lifted by the UAE for continuation of exports. I foresee greater potential for these two areas, though the exports will be bound to develop local markets, employment generation and expansion of side businesses.Q: What are the paramount issues of TDAP? A: The shortage of funds is a major issue for TDAP and is an impediment towards realisation of development plans. If we want to boost country’s exports, we need to market our products in international fairs, but lack of allocations not only restricts authority to lose opportunities, but it also lessens the ways to grow exports. The authority needs money to distribute among then sector under the Export Development Fund (EDF) so it could ready local products and services for international markets. The Authority plans to participate in lifestyle exhibition in India this year. It has decided to participate with members of then IT industry at GITEX.
I don’t believe in numbers, but I am confident that the exports of Pakistan will enhance by leaps and bounds with the strategy being undertaken by the Authority and businessmen. The Authority is targeting exclusively traditional and non-traditional sectors, particularly those having potential to pay back results immediately