ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The Federal Cabinet is likely to approve extension in Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) for six months beyond May 11, 2021 next week.

The formal transit pact between Pakistan and Afghanistan expired on February 11, 2021 which was extended for three months.

In the second week of February 2021, the Federal Cabinet granted APTTA a three-month extension on the proposal of Commerce Ministry as the two countries had failed to evolve a consensus on some clauses of the draft.

After the cabinet approval, Commerce Ministry issued instructions to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to facilitate consignments destined for Afghanistan.

On April 1, 2021, Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce & Investment and Nisar Ahmad Ghoriyani, Minister of Industry & Commerce Afghanistan signed the protocol for a three-month extension of APTTA 2010, starting from April 12, 2021.

An official in FBR told Business Recorder that Commerce Ministry has already requested to allow uninterrupted transportation of goods being transported to Afghanistan under the APTTA.

Abdul Razak Dawood is focused on cementing trade and economic relations with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) to make Pakistan a hub for trade, transit and transshipment.

Both sides have been working together to utilize the agreement optimally, however there are a few impediments to be addressed including the lack of harmonization and inadequate communication between customs authorities, return cargo injuring Pakistani industry, high service charges on Pak transit cargo to CARs and stoppage of Pakistani trucks at Jalalabad.

According to sources in FBR, on May 4, 2021, Commerce Ministry wrote a letter titled "further extension of APTTA 2010 for six months beyond May 11, 2021" and stated that a process has been initiated to further extend APTTA 2010 for six months beyond May 11, 2021.

Accordingly, FBR has conveyed all concerned quarters for implementation of APTTA 2021 beyond May 11, 2021.

When contacted, Secretary Commerce, Sualeh Ahmed Faruqi, told Business Recorder that next extension will be of 3 to 6 months as both sides have agreed for further extension and in the meanwhile operation of transit trade will continue uninterruptedly.

He said, in the last extension, Pakistan completed the process in a short span of time but Afghanistan took more time in the process.

In reply to a question, he further stated that the Prime Minister, as Minister in-Charge of Commerce Ministry, has approved the summary for extension of six months in APPTA with the direction to get comments from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We have received approval from the Prime Minister and now a summary will be presented in the Cabinet next week for final nod," he added.

Official sources, who are privy to the matter, said the drafts for the revision of the APTTA exchanged by both countries were not finalized yet; hence Islamabad and Kabul have agreed to give another six-month extension till November 2021.

They said that the technical teams of both sides during online meetings agreed on the majority of the sections of the draft of the new transit trade agreement.

Moreover, they said that both sides have also decided that technical teams from the two countries would conclude the revised agreement before the extension period expires.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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