Role of Trade Associations
The rapid downward slide in various aspects of national life in Pakistan, especially on the economic front, should be a matter of serious concern for those who formulate the nation’s economic and trade policies. However, it also falls upon the trade bodies and associations that represent the various sectors of industry and enterprise in the private sector, to play their due role as catalysts of economic change and growth. There are 32 chambers of commerce and 80 recognised trade associations in Pakistan and each has a significant function in representing its respective areas of interest before the policymakers to ensure that national policies are formulated in due cognizance of the national needs and international realities.
The primary function of a trade association is to serve its members by organizing seminars and training activities in trade legislation, marketing and product development; organisation and sponsoring of fairs and trade shows and publication of newsletters and trade journals. Trade associations also collect and disseminate statistical information and industry data and prepare industry reports on issues and developments. They have an important ‘industrial policy’ function, as their members are actively involved in shaping the way their industry works. As such, they help promote product standards and best practices for their industry, define and promote standard terms and conditions of sale and help the government in formulating and enforcing industry self-regulation. They are responsible for issuing information to their members for compliance of regulations and making recommendations on a variety of commercial and non-commercial issues.
Trade associations perform the function of promoting, representing and protecting the interests of their members on such aspects as legislation, regulation, taxation and policy matters that would be likely to affect them. In fact, the expanding scope of government economic regulations has made it increasingly important for the private sector to participate in the planning and implementation of such regulations.
There are also many ways in which trade associations undertake lobbying in the interest of their respective sectors. They have a crucial role to play in promoting best industry and trade practices and they do this by helping member companies become more competitive. They utilize their tremendous potential to act as a coordinated voice of business when talking to the government and they perform a useful task in quickly disseminating information about government policy to their members. Productive engagement between associations and various relevant arms of the government is very important for the policy making process.
Since each trade association has extensive knowledge of the industry it represents, this information can be quickly passed on to the policy-makers. In this way it should be possible for trade associations to help in identifying emerging issues and recommending solutions. Since representations made by trade associations to the government on policy matters are backed by current evidence gathered from members, it helps with cost assessment and in drawing up policy proposals. It is also important to understand that trade associations play an important role in cultivating a structure feasible for trade activities of foreign investors in Pakistan and making it competitive with other Asian economies