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Preferential trade with Afghanistan proposed

Daily News, Lahore

Preferential trade with Afghanistan proposed

* Delegation to visit Kabul

Staff Report

12 February 2005

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has proposed a preferential trade agreement with Afghanistan and shown keen interest in setting up industrial zones between Kandahar and Jalalabad, once security issues are resolved, said Humayun Akhtar Khan, Pakistan’s commerce minister.

Mr Khan said this on Friday during his meeting with Dr Anwarul Haq Ahadi, Afghanistan’s finance minister, who is in Pakistan to attend the Pak-Afghan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). The commerce minister also proposed to work out a preferential trade agreement (PTA) leading to a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. Both sides agreed to enhance economic and trade cooperation with each other.

Dr Ahadi said Pakistan was Afghanistan’s major trade partner and his country attached a lot of importance to Pakistan’s valuable assistance for rebuilding Afghanistan. He said there was tremendous potential for trade between the two countries. “Our trade volume is rising rapidly and much needs to be done to increase it further,” he said.

The commerce minister apprised Dr Haq of his recent meeting with the Afghan commerce minister who was leading a delegation at Expo 2005 in Karachi.

Khan said both countries should form a group to study each other’s tariff regimes as well as the complementarities of the two economies so their businessmen could make informed business decisions.

Mr Khan told the Afghan minister that a high profile delegation comprising the commerce secretary and the chairman of the Central Board of revenue would visit Afghanistan soon to discuss various trade issues including the six remaining items on the Afghan Transit Trade negative list.

Bilateral trade with Afghanistan has increased from $192 million (2001-2002) to $540 million (2003-04) and is expected to increase substantially during the fiscal year 2004-05. Since Afghanistan is a landlocked country, the Ministry of Commerce has taken a number of steps to facilitate Afghan Transit Trade.

These include reducing the negative list for Afghan Transit Trade from 24 to only six items, authorising the National Logistic Cell (NLC) to transport rehabilitation goods, adding Port Qasim and Ghulam Khan Killi to the transit routes agreed in the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement 1965 and occasionally allowing items on the negative list to be transit to Afghanistan such as vegetable oil for ghee factories.