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E-commerce begins take-off in Pakistan.

The first meeting the of E-Commerce Policy Board headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been informed that e-commerce is still in its infancy in Pakistan but it will reach $1 billion by 2020 provided the correct regulatory framework and infrastructure is in place.

The Board had recently been constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to oversee the cross-institutional efforts of creating an e-Commerce Policy Framework being coordinated by the Ministry of Commerce.

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said that formation of the e-Commerce Policy Board was proof of the government's serious commitment to the promotion of e-commerce in Pakistan. Not to mention that the board has been working on the same policy framework for last two years without any results.

The commerce minister is said to have highlighted the importance of creating a conducive environment for the growth of e-commercein the country, including through provision of the requisite infrastructure, and legal and regulatory framework. The Secretary Commerce briefed the Board on the current status and future prospects of e-Commerce globally and in Pakistan.

He said that e-Commerce now accounted for nearly 2.6 per cent of global GDP.

Khurram Dastgirinformed the Board that e-Commerce had become a globally important issue in the World Trade Organisation.

He emphasised that it was extremely important for Pakistan to create an environment in the country which would lead to high growth of SMEs, including e-Commerce initiatives. Minister of State for IT and Telecom Anusha Rahman the meeting that the Ministry of IT and Telecom was already working on some key areas related to e-Commerce which would assist in unlocking the hidden potential of e-Commerce in Pakistan. The Board discussed the way forward to devise a comprehensive e-Commerce Policy in the country. A detailed action plan focusing on reforms in several areas affecting e-Commerce was discussed.

The Board approved formulation of five Working Groups on various tasks in the plan, namely Taxation, Payment Infrastructure, Regulatory Framework, Logistics, and E-Commerce, WTO and Development, with representatives from both the public and private sectors. The Board also directed that the holistic regulatory framework may be examined in consultation with all stakeholders to promote and ease e-Commerce.

The meeting was also attended by Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Chairman SECP, Chairman FBR, Secretary IT, Secretary Communications, private sector representatives, and senior officials of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and SBP. Meanwhile, Minister for Commerce KhurramDastgir Khan while inaugurating a seminar on "E-commerce for Development" in Geneva has said e-commerce in Pakistan is growing and our legislature is working hard to update the rules and regulations governing digital trade. The seminar organised by Pakistan, was attended by a large number of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members and ambassadors.

All heads of agencies greatly appreciated the initiative taken by Pakistan. It was coordinated by Dr Tauqir Shah, Pakistan's Ambassador at WTO.

The group comprises Costa Rica, Nigeria, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Uruguay.

Country experiences from Sri Lanka, Argentina, Nigeria, Pakistan, ASEAN, were presented and debated. Representatives of World Bank, WTO E-trade for all, E-Bay, Alibaba and Mercado Libre, made presentations on how e-commerce can help businesses and trade in developing and less developed countries.. Speaking on the occasion, Khurram Dastgir Khan said commerce was an inescapable fact of life as it had grown beyond their imagination.The digital economy, he said had emerged as an unstoppable giant that was growing at 10 percent a year, more than triple the rate of overall global economic growth.

"Digital is no longer a part of the economy - it is becoming the economy.Internet revolution contributes eight per cent of global GDP. The development of mobile broad band holds the promise to bring billions more on line, thus narrowing the digital, economic, physical and educational divide. The internet of things or internet of everything has the potential of contributing $11trillion to global GDP by 2025," Mr Dastgir explained.

The commerce minister said internet related consumption and expenditure had already surpassed the size of the global agriculture and energy sectors. But only a small proportion of this is happening in LDCs and developing countries.

He added that it was this reality which motivated our group of like-minded countries to launch, Friends of Commerce for Development.

Key motivation being to narrow the knowledge gap, that exists between members in understanding and appreciating different dimensions of commerce, he remarked. Khurram Dastgir said that the seminar was first major initiative of Friends of E-commerce for Development, rather I would say it is a joint initiative of "Friends" of Friends of E-commerce for Development. This event has only been possible through exemplary support of OWTO, UNCTAD, ITC, World Bank and all members of the group namely Costa Rica, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Kenya.

"We welcome on board Uruguay, our new partner. E-commerce is multidimensional and multi-agency and it requires very close private public partnership, and inter agency coordination," he remarked. Mr Dastgiradded that the prime objective of this seminar was to debate the opportunities and challenges offered by e-commerce for LDCs, land locked countries and small island economies in particular, and developing countries in general.

The commerce minister said that considering the complexities of e-commerce, "we need more engaged and structured discussions in form of seminars and workshops, so that members particularly developing and LDCs get better understanding of challenges and opportunities associated with e-Commerce and identify areas of work catering for their interests. We would specially suggest more engaged interaction between experts in the technologies, and how they impact trade and trade negotiators in order to bring out and understand all the challenges associated with digital economy for developing countries and LDC members".

He said that "We the Friends of E-commerce for Development believe that e-commerce provides an opportunity for developing country and LDC enterprises to overcome some of the logistical and geographic challenges they face in terms of access to markets.
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Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 31, 2017
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