ISLAMABAD - Bernard Francois, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Pakistan, here on Tuesday inaugurated the EU funded “Pakistan Leather Competitiveness Improvement Program (PLCIP)” under its Trade Related Technical Assistance Programme.

The Programme will help boost growth in the leather sector, which has been stagnant or declining for the past few years.

“Under the TRTA III programme, the European Union is pleased to launch the Pakistan Leather Competitiveness Improvement Programme, which is focused on the value added leather sector of Pakistan. The programme is focusing on increasing the competitiveness of the Pakistani leather sector by building capacity, training, improving market access and product diversification,” said Francois during his keynote speech at the ceremony. “The programme will engage actors from the leather industry primarily from leather garments, gloves and footwear sectors, and carry out initiatives to promote competitiveness improvements and export diversification.

In the wake of the current incentives given by the EU, which includes the GSP plus status for Pakistan, the value added leather sector needs to seize the opportunity and become an even greater export earner for Pakistan” Fran ois added.

The Pakistani leather sector is a large export earner, with total exports of US $ 1,151 million (approximately ? 840 million) in the latest financial year. However, the sector is not keeping up with regional competitors, and the industry has difficulties coping with the changing demands of the international market.  Although Pakistan is a strong international player in the leather apparel and accessories sector (including leather clothing accessories and gloves) controlling 7.6% of the world trade; in the footwear sector, which is 73% of the overall global leather industry, Pakistan has only had a negligible share for the past several years. The assistance of the PLCIP will go a long way in providing technical training and knowhow to the Pakistani leather exporters to address the challenging needs of the international market. Earlier, Project Director of the PLCIP, Usman H. Malik, highlighted the various activities envisioned under the program. He briefed the audience that the three-year PLCIP will support the leather product sector by focusing on improving productivity, shop floor management, export diversification and new market access.

 He informed that a competitiveness need assessment was already underway and based on its findings; firm level interventions will start in early 2015.

The event was attended by representatives of Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan Leather Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Pakistan Footwear Association and Pakistan Gloves Manufacturers and Exporters Association, various government officials from Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development, Ministry of Science and Technology and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and academicians from Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Leather Product Development Institute and Footwear Training Institute, Charsadda.