Pakistan likely to join WTO Information Technology Agreement

Pakistan is likely to join Information Technology Agreement of World Trade Organization (WTO) in order to accelerate its software and hardware exports abroad. According to official sources foreign IT experts have recommended Pakistan to join WTO ITA for zero duty binding for import of IT hardware and software under this agreement, which could have significant impact on Pakistan’s snail-pace IT exports.

Pakistan is yet to be able to exports its IT exports over $170 to $200 million despite striving hard to get on the map of IT exporting countries. When asked, Managing Director, Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), Talib Baloch, said that joining ITA of WTO is the need of the hour and he would suggest ministry of commerce to proceed in this regard.

Host of other developing countries have already joined this Agreement such as: Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Canada, China , Costa Rica, Croatia , Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, European Communities, Georgia, Guatemala , Honduras, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, India , Indonesia , Israel , Japan, Jordan, Korea , Kyrgyzstan, Macao, China , Malaysia, Mauritius, Moldova, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman , Panama , Philippines , Romania , Saudi Arabia, Singapore , Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Turkey Ukraine, UAE, USA and Vietnam.
Several software companies have established their name abroad and regularly exporting software to a number of countries including Gulf and European Union whereas there are a few hardware companies such as Inbox and Raffles have established their brand names within Pakistan but unable to export substantial amount of exports due to various constraints.

Pakistans software exports in 2007-08 as reported by SBP were US$ 170 million. In the first quarter of 2008-09, the exports have been about US$ 70 million and the government has fixed the target of $250 million for 2008-09. The PSEB data 17 I.T. companies were registered with SBP a few years back, which has now increased to about 179 companies. Total No. of I.T. registered with PSEB is around 1200.

According to PSEB chief, the next 2 years are difficult for the I.T. industry in view of the global recession. He further pressed the need to project industrys strengths and build up on its good past performance to overcome the upcoming difficult time. He said the potential of I.T. work in the domestic market should be explored by the companies and government should take steps in this regard in order to cope up with difficulties foreseen in view of global slowdown.

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The government of Pakistan has recently formed a Task Force on ICT to place Pakistan as a major player in software exports. Other objectives included the development of domestic software/ computer hardware and telecom equipment industry, development of citizen centric applications/services especially in local language, raising quality and enrolment of I.T. education, creating large employment opportunities in IT/Telecom, making Pakistan a major I.T. manpower exporter, making recommendations for the promotion of IT/Telecom sectors, suggest incentives and estimate the investment requirements for the GOP and private sector.