ENHANCING TRADE BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN VITAL FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY: NA SPEAKER

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Islamabad: Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser has said that eliminating trade barriers and facilitating traders would enhance the trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan which is in the best economic interest of the country. He said that ease of doing business especially in and around borders areas would also increase employment opportunities for our people. He remarked that decreasing Non-tariff barriers on both side of the border will enhance mutual trade especially Pakistani export would bounce back which were affected due to COVID-19 Pandemic. He expressed these views while chairing the 2nd meeting of the Executive Committee of Pak-Afghan Friendship Group (Pak-Afghan PFG) today in the Parliament House.

The Speaker appreciated the performance and active role of the Parliamentarians and concerned institutional stakeholders i.e federal government departments, provincial governments, traders and their associations for achieving targets determined by this Executive Committee especially facilitating the traders at Torkham Border, Ghulam Khan, Angoor Ada and finalizing the draft policy on visa liberalization scheme. He expressed that it was the right time to get the decisions implemented by the Executive within timelines as suggested by Pak-Afghan Parliamentary Friendship Group. He directed the representative of State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Customs, National Logistic Cell and provincial governments of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and Balochistan to implement the recommendations of the Executive Committee within timelines agreed by their departmental representatives. It was brought into the notice that traders specially involved in Afghan Transit Trade had to face immense problems due to absence of Bank at Ghulaam Khan Border, unnecessary checking at checkpoints on their way to Chaman, weighing of containers at Torkhum, irrational dummurage charges levied at Karachi Seaport besides increase in number of clearance of containers at all the borders points on daily basis. The Speaker also constituted a Task force for overseeing the terms of negotiation of Pakistan Afghanistan Transit Trade agreement expiring in year 2021. He said that input from parliamentarians and institutional stakeholders would be beneficial for a comprehensive future trade agreement.

Referring to his recent telephonic conversation with his Afghan Counterpart, Speaker Asad Qaiser said that Afghan Speaker was convinced that Parliaments can play an important role in enhancing bilateral economic and trade relations besides people-to-people contact between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also informed the Executive Committee that performance of the special task force on special targets which these task forces achieved would culminate in form of Seminar which would be organized by National Assembly Secretariat in October 2020. He also constituted a Sub-committee to review the implementation of the timelines determined by the Committee.

Special Assistant to PM Muhammad Arbab Shehzad appreciated Speaker Asad Qaiser for his special initiative for trade liberalization between both countries. He briefed the Executive Committee on the issues of Border and visa issues point by point. He informed that clearance at Torkham border backlog due to COVID-19 would be done within this month taking all stakeholders on board. He said that Draft policy on visa facilitation has been prepared and would be presented in the next cabinet meeting. Shandana Gulzar , MNA briefed the Executive Committee on the issues of Demurrages waiving off. The Committee unanimously agreed to reduce the number of check posts especially between Chaman and Afghanistan and it was instructed to Chief Secretary Balochistan to facilitate the Trucks of traders related to Transit trade in terms of checking. The Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam apprised the Committee about the export of food commodities, livestock and value added products. He said that there was immense potential of trade between both the counties which needed to be tapped.

The Minister for Defence Pervaiz Khattak assured the Executive Committee about the facilitation on part of Ministry of Defence at the Borders. He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were neighbors and their destinies were tied up. He said that trade facilitation and concessions to either side would usher in economic prosperity not across the borders but the whole region. The Advisor to PM on Commerce assured the Executive Committee that trade barriers and concession would be granted to Afghanistan being one of the huge market for Pakistani commodities. He said that Pakistan Afghan Transit Trade agreement was expiring in June 2021 and renegotiation of the agreement had been initiated. He assured the Committee that all its recommendations would be incorporated in the new policy.

The Chief Secretary Balochistan, Chief Secretary KPK, Representatives of Customs, NLC, State Bank of Pakistan, M/o Commerce and M/o Ports and Shipping assured the Committee that its recommendations would be implemented in letter and spirit.

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