‘We should take benefit from WTO relaxations under emergency clauses during Covid-19’

KARACHI: Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Vice Chairman Sheikh Sultan Rehman said, ”We should watch the ongoing advisory and other guiding role of the WTO [World Trade Organization]” which should be under our observation in the COVID-19 situation to remain compliant with the obligations of the world trade rules, a national daily reported.

He made these remarks during a webinar organized by the FPCCI, titled “COVID-19: Trade and Trade-Related Measures”. He said, “We should also take benefit of the relaxations … agreed to under an arrangement of special and emergency clauses allowed by the world trading system under the WTO.”

He also said that trade and trade-facilitated allowances should also be capitalized for bringing appropriate pressure on the public sector to structure temporary policies for the benefit of trade and economy in the current economic crisis triggered by declining world trade due to COVID-19.

FPCCI Standing Committee on WTO Affairs Convener M A Jabbar added that due to weak interest and deactivation of the United States in WTO affairs, the WTO system became less relevant, but “we should always prepare ourselves for facing the normal working system of the WTO for conducting trade”.

The attendees of the webinar also included representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), the Applied Economic Research Centre (AERC), and from trade bodies.

Sohail Hanif, joint economic adviser at the Ministry of Finance, said, “We are continuously endeavoring to make fiscal adjustments through FBR [Federal Board of Revenue] as well as providing budget lines for tax refunds and have been fully engaged in convincing the SBP to take appropriate measures for reducing the cost of exports and domestic commerce beside providing other refinance facilities to offload the pressure from the manufacturing and trade units to reduce the cost push generated by the CoVID-19 situation.”

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Secretary General Shahid Sattar said, “Our main concern is the fiscal-related ease which is to have in-time settlement of refunds of taxes, which also appears to be in alignment with the guidance of WTO for member countries to make all the fiscal adjustments to mitigate the effects of CoVID-19.”

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