China and Pakistan have included handmade carpets to its free trade agreement to boost exports of Pakistan’s carpet industry, which employs thousands of women.
Riaz Ahmed, the vice chairperson of Pakistan’s Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association told Geo.tv that the carpet sector had “hit rock bottom due to many trade-related challenges.”
In 2015, Pakistan’s exports of handmade carpets dipped from $300 million to $68 million due to rising freight fares, soaring tax duties, customs clearance and warehouse expenses.
As a result, thousands of women, who worked as daily wagers, lost their jobs.
As per Ahmed, 70% of the labour force of the hand-knotted carpet industry are women.
But now, with the inclusion of hand knotted carpets in the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, 313 export items will get duty-free access to China’s $2 trillion import market.
“Pakistan is a huge handmade carpet manufacturing market in the region,” Ahmed said, “Its cheap labour costs are attractive for Chinese investors.”