Islamabad—Minister for Commerce Eng. Khurram Dastagir, Monday, said that regional peace could be achieved through economic cooperation as prospects of enhancing bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan were very high. Speaking at a roundtable discussion today on a report prepared by Dr. Mohammad Zubair Khan, former federal minister for commerce titled “Pakistan-Afghanistan Cooperation on Trade: Political Economy Analysis” here Commerce Minister said that Pakistan had always been supportive of trade with Afghanistan, and even supported the latter’s entry into the World Trade Organization. He acknowledged the tensions that exist with regard to trade facilitation with Afghanistan.
He said that positivity exists between leaders on both sides, but there has to be a strong mutual agreement in place. He went on to say that Pakistan Railways will begin to play a more prominent role in the movement of goods and that the government has also started working on moving the country towards regional economic cooperation. Eng. Dastagir also stated that Pakistan would welcome an agreement with the Central Asian States. He mentioned the two ongoing projects: CASA-1000 and the TAPI pipeline project. He emphasized that regional peace can be achieved through economic cooperation and given the good will that exists between the countries; the prospects of this were very high.
Dr. Zubair spoke about how trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan is multi-dimensional and has been the subject of political debate, negotiations and bilateral agreements, but also a source of tensions. He said that for Pakistan, the development of trade links with Afghanistan acquires somewhat of an enhanced importance in the regional context. Moreover, the potential of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme puts regional trade relations for both Pakistan and Afghanistan on a much larger scale, together with funding from multilateral institutions that can convert economic potential into reality in the medium term. In the near-term, the emerging security situation in Afghanistan will be critical for improving access of Central Asian countries to global markets and for Pakistan to reach the CAREC markets.
Dr. Zubair emphasised that it was important to adopt international best practices and address difficulties in the context of the institutional and legal framework of international commitments of Pakistan and Afghanistan and through formal structured negotiations through Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods (TIR Convention). Trade facilitation reform in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be undertaken with technical assistance from multilateral organizations. Transit trade can move smoothly and illegal trade can be reduced by improving border procedures, strengthening the bonded transport and guarantee system, and building the institutional and financial apparatus to implement the TIR Convention system. A strong TIR apparatus is very important for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well, he added.