KARACHI: In a dusty factory in northern Karachi, the nation’s oldest tile manufacturer had been struggling to jump on board one of the world’s fastest-growing construction booms.
Fighting to compete with cheap imports from neighbouring China, Shabbir Tiles & Ceramics, operating since 1841, had suffered four years of losses. It’s is now on course to post an annual profit next financial year after Pakistan placed an anti-dumping duty on Chinese tiles in October.
That follows similar moves from the regulator on steel products, reports The National.
“We have got an industry which has been affected by a lot of Chinese imports,” says chief executive Syed Jaffery. Now “the overall construction industry is in a growth phase and so is the tile industry.”
The move to protect some local industries comes as concerns mount in Pakistan that its strongest ally China, which is financing $55 billion of infrastructure projects across South Asia’s second-largest economy, was destroying domestic manufacturing by flooding the market with cheap goods. Pakistan is a key part of China’s Belt and Road trade initiative and one of the main land routes that links it to the Arabian sea through the port in southwestern Gwadar. Pakistani industrialists fear China’s ever-growing influence will put them out of business. Before the duty was imposed, tile imports from China had more than doubled in the past five years and now make up roughly 50 per cent of the industry, according to Shabbir’s chief financial officer Waquas Ahmed. With government support, the tile maker now forecasts it will boost operations to near 90 per cent capacity for the year starting July. Pakistan’s National Tariff Commission has been fielding an increased number of anti-dumping complaints, with Chinese companies featuring “fairly significantly,” chairman Qasim Niaz says.
Pakistan’s move to place tariffs on imported steel boosted local production by 23 per cent to 3.6 million tons last year, the biggest increase among 40 countries, according to World Steel Association data, and local steel firms are expanding.