ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday stepped up its efforts to discourage imports by linking clearances of goods with compliance to stringent regulations.

The new regulations will also apply to imports under the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) as well.

In the first quarter (JulySeptember) of this fiscal year, the trade deficit grew nearly 30 per cent year-on-year to $9 billion. Last year, the trade deficit touched $32bn, which was the highest in the country`s history.

The strolling to control the trade deficit, the government has moved from regulatory duties to non-tariff measures apparently to discourage imports. This step of non-tariff measures came to curt all imports after the imposition of regulatory duties on 26 new products (137 tariff lines) as well as hike in duty rates of 21 items (219 tariff lines).

The rates of regulatory duties range from 10pc to 30pc on different items, which are generally consume d by affluent segment of society.

The new regulations will apply on import of 581 tariff lines, which include products like dairy products, leather, animal, meat, tomatoes,potatoes, onions, garlic, vegetables, fruits etc. Most of these products were already subjected to regulatory duties as well.

In the Import Policy Order 2016, the government had already put in place regulations for 439 and 157 tariff lines, respectively. The products notified on Friday will be in addition to the exiting ones. The new measures will now also give sweeping power to the customs officials while clearing goods at the ports.

Under the regulations, goods clearance will require a certificate for compliance to quarantine requirements of animal quarantine department of ministry of food security and research Pakistan.

In case of some products, clearance of import was linked with compliance to phytosanitary requirement and drawing of samples and testing of quality by Department of Plant Protection.

Similarly, the importable product was also subject to valid special import permit, valid phytosanitary certificate and Plant Protection Release Order by Department of Plant Protection, Ministry of Food Security and Research.

Earlier, there were no such stringent conditions attached with the import of these products. It was only mentioned in the Import Policy Order that the import of these products will be subject to the same termsand condition in the relevant act.

`We have seen that products were cleared at import stage without looking into the quarantine phytosanitary requirement,` an official of the commerce ministry said. These measures, according to the official, were not meant only to curtail imports but also aimed at checking import of substandard products especially food items.

He said such measures were already in place in almost all countries including India. The authorities concerned were also directed to come up with similar regulations for all those tariff lines which were not covered so far. According to the FBR, the purpose of duties was to provide an enabling atmosphere for competition to local manufacturers and boost economic growth.

The products which were subject to regulatory duties include betel nuts (Supari), betel leaves (Paan), cosmetics, fruit juices, tiles, footwear, tyres, handbags, tableware, kitchenware, and home appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators etc.

The purpose of these duties is not the generation of revenue but to reduce the import bill of the country.

Moreover, the local manufacturers or producers of such items would be able to better compete with the imported products, which is expected to improve Pakistan`s economic growth and provide more employment.