Efforts to increase export ranks are among the highest priorities of any government wishing to invigorate economic growth and thereby achieve economic independence. As such more than ever, now the most important thing for Pakistan is to focus on exports and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This means a rapid paradigm shift in our foreign policy. Gone are the days when diplomatic skills were only used for maintaining just friendly bilateral relations. The emphasis now is on reinforcing economic diplomacy to achieve self-reliance for the country.
And to achieve the desired results we’ll have to carry out diplomacy in such a way that can expand bilateral trade agreements and encourage FDIs to achieve sustainable economic growth in the country. Therefore, there is a need to prepare a policy jointly by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Advisor for Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, not only to establish the brand of our Basmati rice but to activate our foreign missions to win support of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Union (EU) etc.
India’s claim of the Geographical Indications (GI) tag: A setback for Pakistan
A recent diplomatic failure is Pakistan’s inability to counter a potential threat to Pakistani Basmati exports as India has applied for an exclusive Geographical Indications (GI) tag to Basmati rice in the European Union (EU). Pakistan on the other hand is yet to implement the GI law promulgated in March. Leading Pakistani rice exporters have called on the government to immediately oppose the Indian application as it would badly damage Pakistani exports to European countries.
Pakistan’s rice exports hit a record of 4.5 million tons during market year 2018-19. Pakistan is losing the diplomatic maneuverability so essential for a successful and meaningful foreign policy of a country. At a time when Pakistan needs to approach the European Union for GI tag for its Basmati rice, it has come to light that Basmati trademark has been registered in an individual’s name in the country and as such we cannot apply for GI status.
Meanwhile Pakistan has decided to file its opposition in the European Union in a reply to India’s claim of GI tag of Basmati rice. This was decided during a meeting chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood. The meeting was attended by Secretary Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Property Organization (IPO-Pakistan), representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) and the legal fraternity. An official statement issued after the meeting said that attendees were of the view that Pakistan is a major grower and producer of Basmati rice and India’s claim for exclusivity is unjustified.
According to report published in a local English language Daily, trade between Pakistan and Turkey had declined to some extent because such high-profile and sensitive assignments were given to officers who lacked the necessary aptitude, training and experience
Here we have an example of a report, prepared to discover the impact of foreign policy on economic development. The report compares the major changes in the principles of foreign policy of Turkey and Iran, and writes, “Turkey in the period of the current government utilizes pragmatic, proactive, and development-oriented foreign policy strategies including westernization, regionalism, and peaceful coexistence which has led to an unprecedented economic growth. In contrast, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the period of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), because of the emphasis on revolutionary ideas and aggressive strategies in foreign policy, has experienced irreversible economic stagnation.”
Need for a seamless global trading system
Moreover, the term Global Village has given rise to global trading system which requires a periodical review of the trade agreements to make them balanced from all sides and a concerted effort for proper enforcement of such trade agreements — the China–Pakistan Free Trade Agreement is an instance. In addition, we must use various diplomatic channels to win the support of South Asian countries to make a place for ourselves in the 10-member (ASEAN). This is a very important organization and is considered by many as a global powerhouse, a central union for cooperation in Asia-Pacific, and a prominent and influential organization. It is involved in numerous international affairs and hosts diplomatic missions throughout the world.
It goes without saying that some nations have a strong infrastructure and finances while others are gifted with natural resources. As such to benefit from each other’s strong points there is a need to cultivate a good diplomatic relation with other nations to progress and grow.
A research paper on “China Pakistan Free Trade Agreement Phase II-A Preliminary Analysis” written by two LUMS economists Nazish Afraz and Nadia Mukhtar calls on the government to show a little more common sense: “The government should constantly monitor other FTAs that China signs, or any special re-export facilities China offers to other countries.” Pakistani government must also ensure that exporters are able to crack the Chinese market and receive the benefits of lower tariffs. Until then, one can pick and theorize tariff differentials indefinitely – but the asymmetric trade will not change, the report adds.
Pakistan’s foreign policy has traditionally been ignoring the importance of revisiting diplomacy in such a way that can expand trade and business to achieve desired economic developments. As such embassies through their Trade Mission are required to strengthen Pakistan’s trade, economic and investment relations with the country of their accreditation by enhancing Pakistan’s reputation as reliable trading’ partner, enhancing market access to Pakistani products, striving to attract FDI into Pakistan and building image of Pakistani goods.
In short, over trade missions failed to contribute to the generation of incremental sales in foreign markets by enhancing the relationship-building process between business partners
Unfortunately, our missions have failed to deliver. According to report published in a local English language Daily, trade between Pakistan and Turkey had declined to some extent because such high-profile and sensitive assignments were given to officers who lacked the necessary aptitude, training and experience. The repost also claimed that the consulate general in Turkey was facing several non-diplomatic issues.
On the other hand some two years back letters were written to five trade commissioners posted in different countries which reads “Regrettably to convey that despite persistent efforts of the Commerce Division, you have been unable to improve your working with the resultant adverse effect on the performance. You must be well aware that the Government of Pakistan spends huge sum from public exchequer to facilitate the Trade Missions to the maximum extent hoping to see them perform in a much better way,”
These reports show that our mission lacked in developing a strategy in terms of future expansion into new foreign markets, specific knowledge about the targeted markets, communication with potential business houses, cultivating better understanding of Pakistani market through regular contacts using not only communication technologies, but also regular visits. In short, over trade missions failed to contribute to the generation of incremental sales in foreign markets by enhancing the relationship-building process between business partners.
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As a country that has long battled an image problem of being a haven for extremists and terrorists, Pakistan must now make a concerted effort to develop better understanding with its trading partners to convince the international community that it is deeply committed to counterterrorism efforts while revamping its image as a country that is moderate. This can only be achieved by enhancing our export potentials and improving our ease of doing business ranking to attract FDIs.
Khawaja Amer is a freelance journalist. He has worked in major international & national papers including Khaleej Times and The News International. He contributes frequently to Dawn and Express Tribune. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.