ISLAMABAD: Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir on Tuesday admitted before a Senate body that the Export Development Fund is out of his reach. A meeting was held under PTI Senator Shibli Faraz in which matters related to Free Trade Agreement (FTAs) and Commerce Ministry’s budget allocation were discussed. The committee expressed its resentment on the halt of over Rs 30 billion from the Exports Development Fund and pressed the authority to hand over the fund to the Commerce Ministry by taking it from the Finance Ministry. The committee also called for a briefing on the fund. Senator Saleem Mandviwala said that the Ministry of Finance kept EDF funds illegally. Adding that there is a dire need to improve the mechanism for utilizing the EDF Fund. Khurram said the government is considering using the EDF fund for publicity and marketing in this regard and the ministry will sit together with exporters in the coming weeks. Shibli Faraz said the Finance Ministry has kept the universal support programme (USF), EDF, and other funds because it wants to manage the fiscal deficit. If the ministry releases all the EDF, USF and other projects’ money, then the fiscal deficit can go up to 15 percent. Mandviwala informed the officials that EDF operating expense has been increased to 50 percent. The Commerce Ministry secretary stated, “We are establishing the EDF Secretariat and cut in expenditure has been made due to this reason.” The Commerce Ministry additional secretary Asad Ahayauddin, while briefing the committee on FTAs, said that Pakistan has signed an FTA with China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia and currently the government is negotiating an sign FTA with Iran, Turkey, and Thailand. “We have shared the draft framework for FTA with Iran and FTA Negotiating with Iran will be completed in 18 months,” he said. Continuing, he stated that negotiations between Pakistan and Turkey are in the final stages and the ministry will take permission from parliament before signing this pact. He said, “The government is reviewing the FTA-1 with China and assures the committee that we will care for our interests.” Pakistan exports to China were recorded at around $9 billion in 2015-16 and China’s imports to Pakistan remained at $12 billion. Mandviwala noted that Pakistan and China have a problem of under invoicing and this has persisted since the FTA was signed. Ahayauddin said both countries agreed on an electronic data interchange in the last meeting and the under invoicing problem would be settled soon. Mandviwala sought the details of comparison of FTAs that are signed with different countries so that it may be ascertained which agreement brought about a loss or a profit for the country.