ISLAMABAD: A legislative body on Monday directed the Ministry of Commerce & Trade to accelerate the pace of negotiations at political and ministerial levels to increase trade with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The directions were given during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce & Textile, which met on Monday at the Parliament House while Member of National Assembly Siraj Muhammad Khan was on chair. The committee was briefed about Pakistan’s trade and investment relations with member states of ASEAN. The meeting was told that the ASEAN was geopolitical and economic organisation encompassing 10 countries with vastly different stages of developing economies, all sharing immense growth potential. Members of the committee stressed that Pakistan should get their due share in trade with member states and utmost efforts should be made to make direct contact with them. The committee was further apprised that ASEAN was a major global hub of manufacturing and trade with a huge market worth over $2.6 trillion and collectively seventh largest economy in the world and third largest in Asia. It was informed that currently Pakistan holds observer status however, strategy of bilateral engagement with major ASEAN countries had been adopted in order to strengthen the case for full dialogue partnership. Apprising about the current engagement of Pakistan with ASEAN member states, the representative of Commerce Division informed that Pakistan had been a trading partner with Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines and had been exporting cereals, textile articles, cotton, seafood, leather, machinery and other items whereas, palm oil, coffee, rubber, machinery, chemicals were major imports. Keeping in view the emerging status of ASEAN as a global hub for manufacturing, Pakistan desired to strengthen its relations and was confident to achieve, full dialogue partnership status, the representative added. The committee while discussing the performance of trade officers in Pakistan’s trade missions abroad, directed for monitoring of trade officers and exploring potential markets for Pakistani products. The committee also directed for relocation of trade missions to countries where demand of Pakistani products existed. The committee expressed its satisfaction on the performance of Pakistan Institute of Trade & Development. The committee recommended inviting businessmen to share their diverse experiences with the under training newly inducted trade officers and for those posted in trade missions abroad. The committee also recommended expanding training facilities in trade to the private sector. The meeting was attended by Commerce & Textile Minister Muhammad Pervaiz Malik, MNAs Chaudhry Asadur Rehman, Seema Mohiuddin Jameeli, Waseem Akhtar Shaikh, Mian Muhammad Rasheed, Tahira Aurangzeb, Zeb Jaffar, Dr Shezra Mansab Ali Khan Kharral, Nazir Ahmed Bughio, Sajida Begum, Dr Fouzia Hameed, additional secretaries of the commerce and textile divisions as well as senior officers of the concerned departments. Published in Daily Times, March 27th 2018.