Government unlikely to allow used cars import

ISLAMABAD (September 20 2010): The government is unlikely to allow commercial import of used cars, fearing that any such measure would have a negative impact on revenue collected from the local automobile sector.

Additionally, the Engineering Development Board (EDB), after analysing the data provided by local auto manufacturers, has observed that price increase is mainly due to rupee-dollar/yen parity and the overall inflation that has increased the fixed cost element of the industry. Besides, underutilisation of capacity is another reason for price hike.

Under the current import policy, three-year old cars can be imported which are in fact four-year old, given the one year registration period. The impact of import relaxation on Pakistan’s economy is about Rs 14. 4 billion and, if the government extends the age limit of imported used vehicles, it would suffer an additional revenue loss estimated at Rs 1.5 billion, or a total of Rs 15.8 billion. Further, there would be an additional foreign currency outflow on purchase of used cars, especially when the country needs to conserve foreign exchange reserves.

According to official documents and sources in Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P), the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet in its forthcoming meeting is expected to approve changes in the ‘transfer of residence’, gift and personal baggage schemes for import of used/second-hand cars.

The incumbent Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engineering Development Board (EDB), Ayaz Niazi, was co-accused in the BMW case. Sources told Business Recorder that the Ministry of Commerce is resisting any role of Industries Ministry in the transfer of residence, gift or personal baggage schemes as these schemes are in the jurisdiction of Commerce and are very much part of Trade Policy 2010-11.

Sources said that pursuant to the ECC decision of July 1, 2010, the EDB gave a presentation to the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission about its functioning and contribution towards automobile industry. Representatives from the Ministry of Commerce, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Board of Investment (BoI) and National Tariff Commission (NTC) were also present.

With regard to the ECC decision that the government should ensure consistency in its policies on deletion program in the automobile sector (AIDP), it was agreed by the participants that reduction in tariff on import of new cars (in CBU condition) may not be an effective tool for reduction in prices of new cars due to huge price gap between the imported new cars and locally assembled new cars. Similarly, downward revision of tariff on CKD kits from current 32.5 percent to 30 percent as per AIDP would have negligible impact as far as reduction in prices of locally assembled new cars is concerned.

While reiterating government’s commitments to follow AIDP in its true spirit, it was agreed by the participants that the only effective way to ensure reduction in prices of locally assembled cars is to modify the schemes concerning import of used cars, viz, transfer of residence, gift and personal baggage scheme, so as to ensure a competitive market for the local industry.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Industries and Production proposed to the ECC that the age limit in respect of imported used cars up to 1000 cc be enhanced from current three years to four years, considering the narrow price gap between used imported cars of 1000 cc and Pakistani used cars of similar capacity. The price gap between 1300 cc imported and local used cars is substantial; therefore, the age limit of imported used cars exceeding 1000 cc is expected to be increased from existing three years to five years.

The MoI&P considers these proposed measures not only foreign exchange neutral but able to ensure availability of reliable cars to the consumers at affordable price without disrupting the market of locally made used cars. However, it will be a huge task for the GoP, especially MoI&P, to ensure quality, safety and aftersale service of imported cars.

The ECC, in its meeting on July 1, 2010 after detailed deliberations on a summary of Ministry of Industries and Production(MoI&P) titled ‘rationalising the prices of locally manufactured cars’ took the following decisions; (i) approved removal of condition on a new entrant of having 500,000 units in production in countries other than Pakistan; the new entrant were to be allowed 100,000 units annual production in countries other than Pakistan. For local manufacturers/joint ventures the target of 100,000 cars was to be achieved within three years from the date of operation subject to the prescribed international standards. Moreover, there was no other restriction on setting up new industries in automobile sector; (ii) ECC deferred decision on the proposals regarding reduction in tariff on import of new cars as well as commercial import of three-year old cars; (iii) Ministry of Industries and Production was to submit a summary to the next ECC meeting.

The auto industry entered into “Development Phase – 2005-2012” where the consolidation of initial achievements commenced alongside the development of strategy to shape the industry in the new competitive environment.

The deletion program, based on Government of Pakistan’s agreement with World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), was done away with. A compliant system was introduced, named Tariff Based System (TBS) from July, 1 2006.

Under the TBS, assemblers have the choice of buying components at most competitive price, quality and improved supply chain ie techno economic basis. TBS supported FBR in receiving penalised duties (50 percent under SRO 693) instead CKD duty (32.5 percent under SRO 656) promptly at the time of import and there was no need to wait for a minimum of one year, the time required for EDB Audit, customs duty assessment and OEMs payment.

As per EDB record, auto assemblers increased their plant capacity from 93,000 cars during 2001-02 to 341,000 cars during 2009-10.

These assemblers also developed vendor cluster of over 800 registered local vending units with high level of technology transfer, human development and training. Moreover, these assemblers financially supported local vendors for asset building and technology transfers.

Under ISDP, there were three categories for deletion targets: Category A, the parts which are successfully localised by at least one assembler like interior parts and assembling facility; Category B, parts which may be localised and technology is either available or easy to transfer some electrical parts; Category C comprised of non-deletable parts which are either capital-intensive or wherein technology is not available eg engine, body, power train & chasis, etc. However, the assemblers also localised Category C parts, on techno economic basis investment of over Rs 20 billion in press shop for body parts by all auto assemblers is an evidence of localisation by OEMs – Brecorder