Dar for enhancing Pak-Afghan bilateral trade to $5b



Minister for Finance Senator Ishaq Dar on Monday reiterated the government’s resolve for enhancing Pak-Afghan trade volume to $5 billion by 2017 through facilitating trade and businesses between the two countries.

Addressing the 10th Session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC), the minister stressed the need for working single-mindedly to meet the target of of $5 billion in trade volume by 2017 set during the last JEC.

Afghan Minister for Finance Eklil Ahmad Hakimi along with other delegates from Afghanistan attended the meeting and discussed different ways and means to enhance the bilateral trade between both the countries.

Dar said that as part of Pakistan’s vision for a “peaceful and prosperous” neighborhood, it places great emphasis on stable and cooperative ties with Afghanistan and believes that a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Afghanistan is in our best interest.

“Brotherly ties are beneficial for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. These would serve to enhance peace and security between the two countries,” the minister said.

He said that constructive interaction at the leadership level had given a major thrust for improvement in bilateral relations but that it must be sustained and further strengthened.

The finance minister said most of the decisions taken during the last JEC session as well as those taken during the visit of Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani in November 2014 had been implemented.

There are, however, still some decisions that need to be implemented on a faster pace, he said. In order to move forward we have included these unimplemented decisions in the agenda and they will be now looked into by experts from both sides.

Ishaq Dar also recommended early finalization of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and said that government was awaiting a response from Afghanistan.

The minister drew the attention of JEC towards some of the tariff and non tariff issues regarding bilateral as well as transit trade between the two countries.

In this regard, he said, some issues were raised by the Afghan finance minister in February 2015 which were duly replied to by the Pakistani finance minister on March 3, 2015.

He said that relevant trade issues were also discussed in a meeting with Afghan Ambassador adding that these issues were taken up with the relevant authorities and reasonable progress had been made towards facilitation of trade.

Further details in this regard will be shared with the Afghan side during today’s technical session, he added.

The minister urged Afghanistan to expedite process of activation of Joint Business Council and to hold a meeting in this regard as soon as possible which would boost confidence of the Pak-Afghan investors in a big way.

The finance minister asked for facilitating business to business contacts for boosting bilateral trade. “For trade facilitation, we are hoping that Afghanistan would consider relaxing the visa issue regime which impedes visits of Pakistani businessmen”.

Dar emphasised that the process of issuance of visa to the businessmen may be reciprocated. “We are very keen that our businessmen and your businessmen grow their businesses and sustain our relations”, he said.

He apprised the Afghan delegates about updates on some of the projects being funded by Committee on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (CRRA).

FWO and NESPAK, he said, have been mobilized at Torkham-Jalalabad additional carriageway site. The tentative completion date of the project is December, 2016.

As regards the 200-bed Jinnah Hospital in Kabul, Rs 118.854 million was released to NLC to ensure an early completion of the project. Similarly, the hostel building for 1,000 students at Rehman Baba School is nearing completion and will hopefully be operationalised during the first half of next year, he added.

Ministry of National Health Services is coordinating with PIMS and Institute of Kidney Diseases Centre, Peshawar to train 117 trainees for Nishtar Kidney Centre, Dar said.

In this regard, he said curricula and training material have also been finalised and further modalities in this regard will be discussed by experts from both countries.

The minister urged the Afghan government for deputing doctors and staff and to provide electricity at the hospital so that it becomes functional at the earliest.

Regarding the project of Chaman to Spinboldak rail link, he emphasised on the relevant authorities of both sides for professional cooperation so that construction of Chaman to Spinboldak section by the Pakistani side may synchronise with construction of Kandahar to Spinboldak section by the Afghan side.

He said that under the Scholarship Scheme for Afghan Students, so far a total of 2,255 students, against the target of 3,000 had been admitted in MBBS, engineering and other disciplines.

Remaining students, he said would be accommodated during the fiscal year 2015-16 adding that a batch of 295 students graduated in December 2014 while another 305 Afghan students would complete their studies by December 2015. “We hope that these students will become ambassadors of goodwill,” he said.

Dar said that as a goodwill gesture, the government had settled the dues with Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supply Corporation and the transporters for the supply of 50,000 tons of wheat.