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Afghan situation adds new facet to bilateral trade

  • Commerce Ministry apprises Standing Committee that both sides are negotiating a revised APTTA at technical level
Updated 26 Aug 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) draft is almost final, and will be shared with the new government as soon as things settle down in Kabul.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan had almost finalised the APTTA 90 percent before the seizure of power by the Taliban on August 15, 2021. The draft of the APTTA will be shared with the new administration as things settle down,” said Secretary Commerce, Sualeh Ahmed Faruqui while briefing the Senate Committee on Commerce.

The Standing Committee was informed that all trade related issues with Afghanistan have been settled, he said, adding that currently both bilateral trade with Afghanistan and transit trade are progressing normally.

The Commerce Ministry apprised the Committee that both sides are negotiating a revised APTTA at technical level. However, owing to disagreements between the two sides, the APTTA was initially extended for three months and by a further six months beyond May 11, 2021.

Ministry of Commerce had been engaged with the Afghan technical team for negotiating the new APTTA. In this regard, twenty-two virtual meetings were held with the previous Afghan regime.

“Pakistan has continued trade with Afghanistan as per international laws. Movement of trucks is normal. On August 24, 2021, 1047 truck crossed into Afghanistan, of which 557 trucks crossed Torkham border,” he noted.

Senator Salvini, Pak envoy discuss Afghanistan situation

Secretary Commerce maintained that he chaired a virtual meeting with Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry on August 16, 2021. According to him all the chambers stated that bilateral and transit trade are flowing smoothly through the crossing points and there is no disruption so far. In reply to a question, Secretary Commerce informed the Committee that relations with India are not normal.

Commerce Ministry also shared trade statistics of the last ten years i.e. 2011-12 to 2020-21, according to which import of petroleum products was $ 11.4 billion, machinery $ 10.1 billion, food group, $ 8.3 billion, metal group$4.9 billion, textile group $ 3.9 billion, transport group, $ 3 billion, agriculture and other chemicals $ 9.3 billion and miscellaneous group $ 1.2 billion.

Secretary Commerce stated that raw material import is expected to further increase this year, adding that Commerce Ministry is undertaking a study to differentiate between good imports and bad imports.

“We are fine tuning import sector and bringing a separate policy for garments,” Secretary Commerce added.

Chairman Standing Committee observed that exports were almost stagnant during the last ten years but now improvement is being witnessed.

According to Commerce Ministry, the following reasons were noted in export fluctuations: (i) spill over effect of war or terror; (ii) lack of investors’ confidence and low investment in export sector; (iii) narrow export basket;(iv) unrealistic exchange rate; (v) regionally uncompetitive energy prices and supply side constraints; (vi) the IMF conditions to boost tax revenue; (vii) more focus on low value added products/lack of value addition; (viii) anti-export bias and low manufacturing productivity due to tariffs;(ix) dysfunctional SEZs and EPZs; and (x) refunds/incentives issues in export facilitation.

Secretary Commerce informed the committee that the Ministry is foreseeing challenge in agriculture sector and food supply.

In reply to a question, he said, both India and Pakistan export basmati rice. India applied for geographical indications in the EU before Pakistan. However, now Pakistan has also filed its application for registration of basmati as its product as there was no geographical indication law in Pakistan. He maintained that Pakistan’s application is in progress at the European Union.

Answering another question, he said that Khewra salt (pink salt) is produced only in Pakistan, adding that India has not claimed ownership of this salt.

Replying to a question, Secretary Commerce said that Halal Food Authority is being transferred to Ministry of Commerce from Ministry of Science and Technology.

He added that a policy is under consideration to support those SMEs which fall between top ranking and low ranking SMEs.

Secretary Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) also gave detailed presentation on the functions of the organisation. The budget of the TDAP which was Rs 1 billion for the last 10 years has been increased, he revealed.

Presided over by Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, the meeting was attended by Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Manzoor Kakar, Senator Pulwasha Khan and Senator Fida Muhammad.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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