LAHORE: Federal Minister for Commerce Jam Kamal Khan has said that the government has devised a well-tailored, well-thought-out and doable strategy to overcome rising production cost issue for the sake of promotion of manufacturing sector in the country.
“A conducive business environment would be ensured to cut unemployment and promote the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises),” he said while talking to the business community here at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Wednesday.

He said that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce to maintain contact with the business community to understand and resolve their issues. He emphasised that the government’s top priority was addressing challenges related to trade, export, import, manufacturing, and tariff competitiveness.
Additionally, issues like circular debt, the IMF conditions, and the inefficiency of various institutions, which burden consumers, needed to be tackled. He promised that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had guaranteed the involvement of relevant stakeholders in addressing economic issues.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar welcomed the Minister and highlighted the challenges being faced by the business community including inflation, depreciating currency, rising costs of electricity, gas, fuel, high-interest rates, MDI charges, axle load laws, and increased cargo delivery charges. He pointed out that recent SROs (457, 350, 1842) have added to the tax burden on registered individuals, causing further distress.
LCCI Senior Vice President Zafer Mahmood Chaudhry, former presidents Mian Misbah-ur-Rehman, Muhammad Ali Mian, Shahid Hassan Sheikh, Abdul Basit, and Tariq Misbah also addressed the occasion. Director General TDAP Fouzia Chaudhry, executive committee members of the Lahore Chamber, and representatives of the business community were also present.
Kashif Anwar said that the use of import tariffs primarily for revenue generation negatively impacts industrial performance and export capabilities. He urged for changes in the tariff structure to support local industries and reduce smuggling.

He suggested a revised tariff structure with zero percent duty on basic materials, 5-10 per cent on intermediate goods, and higher slabs for semi-finished and consumer goods to simplify the complex duty system. He also recommended reducing duties on machinery and intermediate goods to facilitate technological advancements and equalizing duty rates for commercial importers and manufacturers to support SMEs.
He emphasized the importance of accessing untapped markets such as Africa, Central Asia, and ASEAN countries to boost exports. Besides textiles, rice, and leather, he highlighted the potential of sectors like halal food, pharmaceuticals, IT and engineering to enhance exports. He called for resolving payment issues in the IT sector to increase its export potential and suggested creating a mechanism to ensure all remittances are brought to Pakistan rather than held in foreign banks.

The president noted that the Ministry of Commerce was leveraging existing PTAs and FTAs with other countries. He suggested reassessing trade agreements with countries where Pakistan faces trade deficits despite these agreements. He mentioned the potential signing of an FTA between Pakistan and the GCC within the next three to four months and noted existing trade agreements with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
He also discussed the implementation of a barter trade mechanism with Iran, Afghanistan and Russia through SRO-642 in the coming months, expressing hope for improved trade with neighboring countries.
Addressing sector-specific issues, he pointed out the restriction on jewelers to bring back 50 per cent gold and 50 per cent foreign exchange from their exports under SRO-760. He urged that jewelers be allowed to bring back 100pc gold or receive gold through the State Bank of Pakistan. He also mentioned high duties and taxes on food and dietary supplements, suggesting they be included in Chapter-99, and cited the need to revise duties on steel sector raw materials that are not produced locally but are subject to various duties.

The carpet industry, he said, has long demanded inclusion in existing and future FTAs and PTAs, along with support for participating in international fairs. He called for the removal of penalties on delayed export proceedings, which range from three percent to nine per cent, citing that significant losses due to the longer shelf life of carpet products.
The LCCI president praised TDAP’s work but urged accommodating smaller exporters, including women and SMEs, in the international trade fairs. He mentioned that expected increases in TDAP funding and hoped for broader participation in upcoming international trade events. He also addressed the issue of timely visa processing for members wanting to participate in international trade fairs and called for the Ministry of Commerce to establish a framework with embassies to facilitate this.
Finally, he suggested that the Lahore Chamber, which operates various Help Desks in collaboration with federal and provincial departments, should have a nominated focal person from the Ministry of Commerce to swiftly address import and export challenges faced by its members.
Jam Kamal Khan highlighted that economic instability and foreign exchange issues cause investors to withdraw their capital, making it difficult to attract new investments. The PM has tasked the ministries of finance, commerce, and industry with listening to and resolving industry problems. Rising production costs are a major issue affecting competitiveness, and

both quality and price are crucial in the global market.
He noted that the business community contributes heavily of the government’s revenue through taxes. Overburdening this group could reduce business activity and government revenue. He stressed that operating with a 22pc interest rate is challenging as it leads to capital being parked in banks, which is not a favorable situation. He pointed out that Pakistan once had an advantage in the textile sector, which has declined. Reducing energy costs is essential for industrial growth, as problems will persist post-budget if not addressed.
The minister called for the tariff board to be business-oriented rather than tax-oriented, as focusing solely on numbers harms the industry. He added that the Ministry of Commerce will participate in the anomaly committee to ensure the business community is on board since export-related queries often involve the commerce ministry.
Jam Kamal Khan said that a committee established by the PM, including Awais Leghari, Muhammad Aurangzeb, Muhammad Ali, and Musaddik Malik, working on a tier structure to achieve economic stability and benefit all sectors. He stressed the need for restructuring the TDAP to address the industry’s northward shift and focus on both northern and southern regions.
He acknowledged the Lahore Chamber’s request for commerce ministry representation and proposed establishing a dedicated desk to resolve chamber-related matters. The ministry would act as an advocate for the business community, actively addressing their issues on all forums and not merely functioning as a post office, he promised.


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