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National economic interest

National interest is the “interest of a nation as a whole held to be an independent entity separate from the interests of subordinate areas or groups and also of other national or supranational groups.” On March 18, 2021, at the National Security Division’s first-ever ‘security dialogue’, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa stated that it is “our desire to change the narrative of geo-political contestation into geo-economic integration.” More recently, Pakistan’s National Security Policy 2022-2026 has put economic interest as the most critical dimension of our national interest. Where does our national economic interest really reside?

Export items: Our top export is bed linen, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen of which we export around $3.5 billion a year. Pakistan is actually the second-largest exporter of linens in the world. Rice is our second-biggest export item of which we export over $2 billion a year; followed by non-knit men’s suits $1.7 billion, cotton yarn $1 billion and non-knit women’s suits worth $950 million.

Export destinations: Our top most export destination is the United States to which we export goods worth $4 billion a year. Next comes China $2 billion, Germany $1.8 billion, United Kingdom $1.6 billion and Afghanistan $1 billion.

Import items: Our top import item is refined petroleum worth about $5 billion followed by crude petroleum ($4 billion), petroleum gas ($3 billion), palm oil ($2 billion) and scrap iron ($1.5 billion). The largest exporting country to Pakistan is China ($15 billion) followed by the United Arab Emirates ($6 billion), United States ($2.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($2.5 billion) and Indonesia ($2 billion). Interestingly, Pakistan is the world’s largest importer of tea ($600 million).

External debt: Nearly 50 percent of Pakistan’s $127 billion external debt is owed to West-dominated multilateral institutions and an additional 30 percent to financial institutions in the west. Chinese debt comprises 15 percent of our total external debt, roughly $17 billion.

Remittances: The top two sources are Saudi Arabia (16 percent) and the UAE (12 percent). Over the past decade, the growth in remittances from Spain has been 650 percent, France 950 percent and Italy 1,000 percent.

Conclusion 1: Bilateral trade between Pakistan and the US hovers around $7 billion and the US is the only country with which Pakistan enjoys a billion-dollar surplus. This is where our national economic interest resides.

Conclusion 2: Bilateral trade between Pakistan and China hovers around $16 billion and China is the only country with which Pakistan suffers a trade deficit of $11 billion a year.

Conclusion 3: Nearly 60 percent of our exports are bought by a dozen countries that include the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, Canada, Poland, Portugal and Australia. This is where our national economic interest resides.

Conclusion 4: Nearly 85 percent of all of our external loans come from US-dominated multilaterals and commercial sources. This is where our national economic interest resides.

Conclusion 5: Geoeconomics is the “use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests.”

Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Dr Farrukh Saleem, "National economic interest," The News. 2022-01-30.
Keywords: Economics , Economic interest , Economic integration , External debt , Export , Import , Trade , Gen Bajwa , Afghanistan , China , COAS