The recent announcement of a 20-member delegation from Pakistan visiting China has prompted a renewed focus on the future of Pakistan’s export strategy. This delegation, comprising representatives from various sectors of Pakistan’s industry, aims to learn from China’s remarkable economic development and engage in consultative talks with the Chinese government to boost Pakistan’s exports. The initiative is a step in the right direction, but a comprehensive and strategic overhaul is essential for Pakistan to achieve its ambitious export goals.

Pakistan’s current exports are less than 30 billion dollars, a figure that needs a strategic overhaul to reach the ambitious target of 100 billion dollars. The existing strategy reflects a heavy reliance on the low-income textile industry, which constitutes 60% of our exports. The lack of high-tech, high-income exports is a significant weakness that hampers prosperity and social development. To achieve rapid and sustainable socio-economic development, the focus must shift towards manufacturing and exporting high-technology products.

In this context, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be a game-changer. Our government must convince the Chinese government, particularly President Xi Jinping, to facilitate the transfer of technology in major industries such as motor vehicles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, aircraft, and information technology. This transfer would enable mutual business and significantly enhance our export capabilities.

The strategic collaboration through CPEC can catalyze the growth of Pakistan’s high-tech sectors, setting a foundation for long-term economic development.

The following suggestions to foster a high-tech export strategy such as establish a committee focused on the manufacture and export of high-value, high-tech products through joint ventures between Chinese and Pakistani industrialists. These ventures should be exclusively for the export of finished products and target sectors such as solid materials for electric vehicles, solid-state batteries, vaccines, biosimilars, engineering equipment, aircraft, automobiles, composite materials, nanotechnology products, defense equipment, information technology, mineral processing, industrial biotechnology equipment, submarines, and bullet trains. By focusing on these high-tech sectors, Pakistan can diversify its export portfolio and move away from its over-reliance on the textile industry.

To attract Chinese manufacturers, Pakistan must offer compelling incentives. These should include a twenty-year tax exemption, which would provide a significant financial incentive for Chinese companies to invest in Pakistan. Additionally, training programs should be established to train 10,000 young Pakistani students in Chinese engineering and other universities for at least three years to meet the manpower requirements of new industries. This would ensure that Pakistan has a skilled workforce ready to support high-tech industries. Moreover, comprehensive insurance should be provided, with government guarantees covering disruptions due to law and order situations. This would mitigate the perceived risks of investing in Pakistan.

Offer free land for business and cover 50% of the construction costs for buildings required for joint ventures. This would reduce the initial capital expenditure for Chinese companies, making Pakistan a more attractive destination for investment. Furthermore, providing electricity and gas at rates 75% lower than the existing rates for new industries in partnership with China would further enhance the cost-competitiveness of these ventures.

Emphasize that the One Belt One Road initiative, with a special focus on CPEC, can transform Pakistan. Chinese and Pakistani industries should invest in joint ventures while academic institutions from both countries should collaborate on skill development to ensure a highly skilled workforce for high-tech industries.

The integration of educational institutions in this initiative would foster innovation and research, driving the development of high-tech products.

Despite the initial enthusiasm for these suggestions, the Pakistani government has yet to capitalize on this golden opportunity. However, it is not too late. If the Prime Minister and Army Chief push the proposal at the highest level, this initiative can still be revived. High-level political support and commitment are crucial to overcoming bureaucratic inertia and ensuring the successful implementation of this strategy.

In today’s global economy, high-tech exports are critical for economic growth, national competitiveness, and job creation. Countries that excel in producing and exporting high-tech products benefit from increased productivity, innovation, and higher standards of living. For Pakistan, increasing high-tech exports requires a comprehensive strategy that fosters a strong research and development (R&D) ecosystem and creates an enabling business environment.

Achieving the goal of increasing high-tech exports is complex but attainable. A systematic approach that addresses both R&D and business environment factors is essential. Emulating countries like South Korea, Taiwan, China, Finland, and Singapore, which have achieved rapid growth through high-tech exports, Pakistan can transition to a technology-driven, knowledge-based economy. This transition will lead to economic development, prosperity, and a higher standard of living for our people. The delegation’s mission to China is a crucial first step, but sustained effort, visionary leadership, and strategic collaboration are essential to realizing Pakistan’s high-tech export potential.

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