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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said on Thursday that talks with India on transit trade are under way, whereas agreement with Afghanistan will be concluded soon.

He gave this statement before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, which met with Syed Naveed Qamar in the chair.

In 2019, Pakistan suspended trade relations with New Delhi. However, the ECC, the top economic decision-making body, approved import of cotton from India but the decision was trashed by the Federal Cabinet on the grounds that Pakistan would not resume trade with India, until the special status of Held Kashmir is revoked.

The government of former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had refused to enter into transit trade or bilateral trade agreement with Pakistan until Indian goods are allowed to be transported to Afghanistan through land route.

Both countries have not yet finalised trade pacts over differences on inclusion of India due to which Pakistan extended the transit trade agreement twice on temporary basis. However, formal trade talks with Taliban government will commence, once their government is recognised at the international level.

The Committee was also informed that trade is being done with Turkey and Azerbaijan through the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention).

Briefing the Committee on trade with Iran and Central Asian Republics (CARS), Dawood said a Pakistan truck also trans-shipped mangoes to Moscow this year, adding that the target is to use one truck only. The Committee was apprised that trade with Azerbaijan is going on without any formal agreement whereas Pakistan has bilateral trade agreement with Iran.

Over 600 containers of transit trade cleared

“Trade with Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan through trucking will be formalized by December this year,” officials said. The Committee was informed that Pakistan and Uzbekistan have already signed transit trade agreement.

During discussion on a starred question of Zil-e-Huma MNA, the committee was informed that Pakistan exports agriculture products to China, UAE, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom (UK), Malaysia, the Netherlands, USA, Kenya and Oman. Pakistan exports meat to Malaysia whereas talks are under way with Egypt to export poultry.

Chairman Standing Committee observed that borders are closed without prior intimation due to which perishable items decay.

The Committee was informed that ban on export of poultry to Afghanistan has been lifted. Meat production has increased by 38 per cent this year.

Dawood remarked that Prime Minister took notice of border closure without intimation after which it did not happen again.

However, he was of the view that the situation has changed after the interim government of Taliban. He said the border is closed due to situation of Afghanistan.

The Committee was further informed that 952 trucks entered Pakistan in just one day. “Now goods are offloaded at Islamabad airport and trans-shipped to Afghanistan,” the official added.

Muhammad Yaqoob Shaikh, MNA, revealed that health and hormonal issues are being emerged due to broiler chicken. He said Brazil and USA are key exporters of broiler chickens.

Commerce Ministry officials also informed the Committee that the government is distributing edible items amongst the masses to avert human disaster. The government has approved 40,000 MT of wheat for Afghanistan.

Commerce Ministry officials further informed the Committee that there are issues with respect to banking transactions with Iran, adding that a proposal regarding trade with Iran through private sector is under consideration.

Pak-Afghan trade talks go nowhere

“We have also proposed State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to start trade with Iran through private sector,” the officials said, adding that trade through official channels can create issues for the public sector departments.

Chairman Standing Committee proposed to the government to ask those who are doing trade in black market, to come into ‘white’ business.

Advisor Commerce said that wheat production was recorded at 27 million tons whereas consumption was 26 million tons. However, the government has decided to import 4 million tons of wheat as strategic reserves, adding there is no fear of shortage of wheat in the country.

He said, the government is also importing 50,000 tons of sugar to meet local demand, adding that there would be no need to import sugar after the crushing season starts

Dawood added that Ministry of Commerce supports the recommendation of the parliamentarians for facilitating transit through Iran via Tafton Border for exports to Central Asian Republics, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Turkey, etc. He further informed that State Bank of Pakistan is not issuing E Forms for the exports to Central Asian Republics and other bordering countries with Iran for transit via Iran although no banking transactions take place between Iran and Pakistan for transit of goods through Iran.

The Chair pointed out that a large number of complaints of stopping of goods are being received from borders. He urged the Ministry of Commerce to set a mechanism for a quick resolution of these day to day issues and ensure free flow of goods at the borders.

The Committee deferred agenda relating to status of previous recommendations and agenda and further discussion on “The Trade Organizations (Amendment) Bill, 2021” for the next meeting of the Committee. The meeting was attended by Muhammad Yaqoob Shaikh, Mian Muhammad Shafiq, Ms. Sajida Begum, Mrs. Farukh Khan, Barrister Usman lbrahim, Rana Iradat Sharif Khan, Rasheed Ahmed Khan, Mrs. Tahira Aurangzeb, and Syed Javed Ali Shah Jelani, MNAs. The meeting was also attended by Ms. Zille Huma, MNA/Mover.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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