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KARACHI: Chairman Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), Zubair Motiwala has recommended measures which can be implemented to address the issues like setting up EXIM bank, acceptance of third-party payments, non-requirement of E-form and EIF, clear and long-term policy for barter trade, facilitating Afghan investors to realise full potential of trade which can go up to 5 billion dollars, bilateral transit trade policy to reach markets beyond Afghanistan like CARs, fiscal reforms for duty rationalisation, quick and easy business friendly visa regime on both the sides, use of technology to maintain traders profile and history, acceptance of goods clearance documents issued at border in all cities.

He remarked that big countries like China and South Korea are accepting third party payments which are good source of foreign exchange and increasing trade volume then why Pakistan is reluctant and commercial banks are rejecting clients for further processing. Almost 4000 plus containers from other countries are used to trade with Afghanistan and traders are being paid whereas in Pakistan no such policy is in place.

We are facilitating Indian goods via Wagha for Afghanistan, whereas same policy is required for our own national interest. We are fast losing the position which has been left vacant by India, leaving Iran to close this. Afghan investors are ready to invest 2 billion dollars but GOP institutions are asking for the source which is not required by any international or local law. Business visa holders shall be accorded required respect and facilitation in Pakistan.

PAJCCI in its special session with Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and member of Afghan Inter-ministerial Coordination Cell has updated him on the critical and urgent matters requiring resolutions with priority, affecting balance of trade and transit with Afghanistan requiring immediate intervention to realise the full potential of not only trade but long-term socio-economic relationship. The issues are impacting not only trade with Afghanistan but with CARs and beyond.

At present banking channels are not operational in Afghanistan hence transactions are conducted in informal manner resulting in non-filing of sales tax refund and export rebate claims with FBR, third party payments are not processed by banks, E-Form and EIF cannot be filed due to withdrawal of CoC facility, harassment by FIA and FBR, absence of long-term barter trade, investment and joint venture cohesive policy, unnecessary security checks, restricted movement of goods vehicle, restricted visa regime, absence of duty rationalisation, double taxation, limit of infrastructure encouraging unauthorized trading routes.

Muhammad Sadiq lauded the personal efforts of Zubair Motiwala and Khan Jan Alokozai through PAJCCI platform and facilitating both governments in implementing various initiatives, providing business technical insights which are instrumental in creating the understanding of issues and potential of relationship with Afghanistan towards becoming regional economic power.

He stated that Motiwala’s vision is in alignment with Pakistan Government to uplift the living standards of the regional populace by use of resources, expanding economic borders, removing barriers, reaching new markets, innovative solutions, long term and sustainable economic policy and capitalizing on geo-economics of the region. He asked PAJCCI that all on-going issues shall be documented along with recommended solutions which will be then discussed in AICC, PAJCCI will be invited to attend the meeting to be held within 10 days to deliberate issues pertaining to barter mechanism and banking operations with SBP. He assured that all issues related to policy at GOP level will be resolved in few weeks however issues related to SBP may take time as they are regulatory and compliance matters and to be viewed in light of FATF and IMF sphere while keeping Pakistan’s national interest prime.

He said that it is expected that barter trade, investment and joint venture business friendly policies will be developed in 2 weeks as per Prime Minister’s explicit instructions. The current barter trade deficit can be easily addressed if Pakistan imports Coal and other minerals from Afghanistan instead of elsewhere. It is expected that sooner or later Afghanistan regime will be recognized and banking channels will open however Pakistan’s policy shall be future ready instead of short-term measures.

E-Form & EIF suspension can be extended depending upon the data of 45 days temporary suspension period. Names for barter trade committee have been finalised and it will soon start functioning. The investment policy will be evolutionary to incorporate future requirements; visa regime has been improved however due to unwarranted load the E-Visa system experiences overload. There is a need of correct understanding of Visa application requirements and process. Business visa is priority however applicants must satisfy all requirements. Sales tax on exports to Afghanistan will be discussed with Finance Minister and he assured that it will be resolved.

He agreed to have separate entry line at borders for business visa holders and their families. He also informed the house that during his recent meeting with Bill Gates, he has requested him to extend Gates Fund for humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.

He also agreed to use his influence in arrangement of Polio vaccine for Afghan children at border crossings, building of rest rooms at borders for Afghan pedestrian traffic, cross stuffing of containers, issuance of temporary registration card for drivers and one helper coming in from Afghanistan, both governments have agreed to start bus service for businessmen.

He assured his support that all issue pertaining to government levels will be taken up in his next visit to Afghanistan and in all sessions of AICC which is alternatively chaired by himself, NSA and PM.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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