Pakistan has been taking a number of steps to boost the competitiveness of its textile and apparel goods in the wake of rising market rivalry, according to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Addressing major US retailers and importers today, Aziz said the measures included a focus on boosting production quality and quantity, encouraging foreign investment, and improving shipment speed and security.

Aziz spoke at an event hosted by international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg (ST&R) PA at the Princeton Club of New York.

According to Aziz, Pakistan has seen substantial declines in several of its traditional areas of export to the US as a result of the elimination of the World Trade Organization quota system last year.

Shipments of manmade fibre trousers, knit shirts, and dressing gowns and robes, among other categories, have decreased by as much as 72%.

This trend has great socioeconomic significance for Pakistan, where the textile and apparel sector employs 35-40% of all manufacturing labour and accounts for 9% of total gross domestic product.

In light of these circumstances, he said, Pakistan has embarked on a wide-ranging initiative to increase its attractiveness to foreign investors. It is ramping up production capacity, improving the quality and reliability of communications, energy, and other vital services, and making it easier to conduct financial transactions.

Programs are underway to not only expedite shipments - including upgrading railroads, highways, and port facilities and accelerating customs clearance - but to make them more transparent and secure as well. The government is also tightening intellectual property rights protections and bringing worker rights more in line with international standards.

However, industry experts say that while these measures illustrate Pakistan's strong commitment to its textile and apparel sector, they may not be enough to ensure that the country's exports remain internationally competitive.

"Pakistan has done all it can to take advantage of today's global environment," said Nicole Bivens Collinson, vice-president of trade negotiations and legislative affairs at ST&R.

"Companies have made new large-scale investments, and the government has eased restrictions on obtaining capital and raw materials. But Pakistani factories still face tough competition from countries like India and China, which will only increase in the years ahead."

Other Pakistani officials in attendance at the event included Ambassador to the US Jehangir Karamat, Minister of Textiles Mushtaq Ali Cheema, Minister of State Tariq Ikram, Minister for Privatization Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, and Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Shah.