Pakistan wants to introduce a single visa for tourists visiting the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) sub-region, to facilitate tourist movement and increase the likelihood of tourists doing multi-country visits, increasing the average time of stay and spending per tourist.
This has been revealed in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) report “Asian Economic Integration Report 2019-2020, demographic change, productivity, and the role of technology”.
The report further maintained that strengthening the intra-subregional ties would also help CAREC “brand” itself better as a future tourist destination for visitors from other countries in Asia, which makes up at least 60% of its market.
Pakistan has recently introduced changes to its visa policy — 50 countries are eligible to apply for a visa-on-arrival under the tourist category, while its online visa system is open to 175 countries.
Visitors from Southeast Asia have become more Asia-centric. Its shares of intra-subregional (38.7%) and inter-subregional (43.4%) tourism have grown relative to 2010. Intra-subregional visitors increased by around half a million in 2017, while inter-subregional arrivals recorded brisk growth (7.2 million visitors more than in 2016), especially Myanmar and Vietnam.
Exports in the Region
The report further stated that across Asian economies, Bangladesh has the highest intensity ratio, exceeding 1 which indicates stronger trade linkages with regional value chain (RVCs) than global value chain (GVCs). It was followed by Nepal with an intensity score of 0.88 and Pakistan at 0.87. These countries highly specialize in the textiles and textile products sector, and the leather and footwear sector. Their production networks are mostly linked sub-regionally with India and intra-regionally with the PRC.
Among Asian economies, Myanmar saw its soybean exports to the PRC grow fivefold (from $16.9 million to $115.7 million), while Pakistan (52.6%) and Hong Kong, China (23.5%) also recorded higher growth. Meanwhile, some Asian countries—Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam—also benefited from the reallocation of US soybean exports.
The countries received a combined share to US total soybean exports of 26.2% in H2 2018, an increase from 17.1% in H2 2017 (equivalent to $584 million).
Large declines in PRC imports from the US also occurred in cotton, particularly on yarns used as intermediate goods. US bilateral cotton exports declined by 27.1% in H2 2018 ($89.5 million). The PRC also reduced its imports from Pakistan, Australia, Japan, Italy, and Turkey (worth $385.3 million). However, this was more than offset by large exports of $534.9 million from India; Hong Kong, China; and Kazakhstan, and $388.1 million from Brazil. The US, on the other hand, diverted $163.4 million in cotton exports to the top Asian textile and garment exporters—Viet Nam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
The report further maintained that CAREC 2030 has a broader agenda which focuses on five operational clusters:
- Economic and financial stability;
- Trade, tourism, and economic corridors;
- Infrastructure and economic connectivity;
- Agriculture and water;
- Human development.
In August 2019, the First CAREC Capital Market Regulators’ Forum was convened with co-sponsorship of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, where senior officials from CAREC member countries and business leaders discussed reforms promoting financial access and private sector development through strengthened regional cooperation and integration in capital markets.
In the energy sector, the flagship Turkmenistan–Uzbekistan–Tajikistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan power interconnection framework and Central Asia—South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project continue to progress. Also, the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline Investment Agreement was signed among pipeline shareholders in 2016, and investment for the first phase of TAPI project is under discussion.