ISLAMABAD -  The government on Wednesday informed the parliamentary committee that the country’s Export Import (Exim) bank would be functional before June next year amid to facilitate exporters and importers.

During the meeting, the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was told that the board of directors of Exim bank is now in place and a consultancy firm will be soon hired to prepare the manual and business plan for the bank. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will license the bank after the consultancy finishes all work required for the bank’s functioning which will be before June next year. The post of chief executive officer will also be advertised again.

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Shibli Faraz here at the Parliament House. The committee observed that the importance of this bank is not understood as it should be. The committee asked for representation of all provinces in the board of directors. The committee, in its meeting held in July 2016, directed the government to make the Exim bank functional by November 2016.

Senator Nauman Wazir raised the matter of negative impacts of 90 percent of the country’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other countries. He said that the trade deficit (ratio of exports and imports) with China has increased from four million to 12 million. Whether the commerce ministry is coming up with any plan to sign the FTAs in a proper way, he questioned.

Senator Shibli Faraz also questioned that what compels us to go for a FTA and how do we monitor and safeguard our interests after signing. The Commerce secretary told the committee that volumes of imports have gone up irrespective of FTAs and there are multiple reasons leading to this. He said that the ministry now engages in structured discussion in the process to help avoid trade deficit and to safeguard the local manufacturer as well as farmer.

Matters regarding import of huge quantity of powdered milk and restriction on imports of PVC scrap, on the pretext of being hazardous, were also discussed during the meeting. The ministry told the meeting that the imported powdered milk in the country is subject to standard control and is checked by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) under the ministry of science and technology. Regarding restriction on PVC scrap, the committee asked the ministry to have a mechanism in the policy which is suitable for small manufacturers.

While discussing the Act of TDAP, the committee observed that it is too widespread and its work ambit is to be constrained. The ministry told the meeting that inherently nothing is wrong with the act and the trade development authority is working towards rationalising the major objectives. TDAP will share its recommendations in amending the act with the committee who will subsequently share its views.

The meeting was also attended by Senators Karim Khawaja, Nauman Wazir, Usman Kakar, Rubina Khalid, Rahila Magsi, Mufti Abdul Sattar, Kamil Ali Agha and Hafi Saifullah Bangash.