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 was discussed. The committee expressed its resentment on the stopping of over Rs 30 billion from 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. There is a dire need to improve the mechanism for utilizing the EDF Fund, he added. Khurram said the government is considering to utilise the EDF fund for image making and for marketing in this regard and the ministry will sit together with exporters in 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 money of EDF, USF and other projects then the fiscal deficit can go up to 15 percent. Mandviwala said the officials that EDF operating expense has been increased to 50 percent. The Commerce Ministry secretary said, “We are establishing the EDF Secretariat and cut in expenditure had been made due to this reason.” The Commerce Ministry additional secretary Asad Ahayauddin while briefing the committee on FTAs said that Pakistan has signed FTA with China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia and currently the government is negotiating to sign FTA with Iran, Turkey and Thailand. “We have share the draft framework for FTA with Iran and FTA Negotiating will Iran will completed in 18 months,” he said. Negotiations between Pakistan and Turkey are in the final stage and the ministry will take permission from parliament before signing this pact, he added. He said, “The government is reviewing the FTA-1 with China and assure the committee that we will care our interests.” Pakistan exports to China were recorded at around $9 billion in 2015-16 and China’s imports to Pakistan remained $12 billion. Mandviwala said that Pakistan and China have a problem of under invoicing and this is going on since the FTA signed. Ahayauddin said that both countries agreed for electronic data interchange in the last meeting and under invoicing problem will be settled soon. Mandviwala sought the details of comparison of FTAs that are signed with different countries so that it may be ascertained that which agreement brought loss or profit for the country.