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KARACHI: The chairman of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Zubair Motiwala said trade is better than aid and EU can play its vital role in revival of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan with its support at FATF.

Discussing Pak-Afghan economic and regional dynamics with Thomas Seiler, EU Chargé d’ Affaires, Zubair Motiwala apprised Seiler of current trade landscape and its potential in Pakistan and how it can be extended to Afghanistan via transit trade to EU countries.

They both discussed matters of bilateral interest focusing on Pak-EU trade relationship and mutual support in various areas of social development.

Zubair Motiwala offered his expertise and support to jointly explore trading opportunities and contribute towards economic uplift of the region especially by involving Afghanistan trade potential thereby supporting socio-economic uplift of the region.

He also offered his mediation with Afghan government to meet international human rights conditions for the aid to flow into Afghanistan in areas of education, health and food support programs.

Motiwala established that the biggest issue is third party payments processing by international corresponding and local commercial banks in case of trade with Afghanistan due to being over compliance of Pakistan government as a result of FATF discrimination. He gave examples of Germany, China, CIS, India, and South Korea who are easily trading with Afghanistan and do not face payment issues or sanctions by FATF and other international agencies.

Due to such discrimination Pakistan is forced to trade with CIS via Afghan transit route and reluctance to process third-party payments are giving rise to negative sentiment in Afghanistan; which Pakistan can ill afford as it may result in anarchy and over flow of refugees giving opportunity to illegal immigrants and smuggling.

Motiwala updated Thomas about Barter trade that can be an alternate however due to balance of trade and risk in processing payments, credibility can be an issue that needs to be dealt as focal point.

Motiwala also urged that GSP Plus status which expires on 31st December 2023 shall be extended for 10 years, this program ensures that large number of women is employed in factories and mostly people from low-income background living under poverty line. GSP Plus has provided much needed diversity and inclusion of minority section of society. He offered that PAJCCI delegation can visit Brussels to present Pakistan case at EU to provide real input on how extending GSP Plus will help in society turn around by generating income and engaging masses in positive activities.

Goods train to Turkey is another milestone that Pakistan has achieved; this can be another channel to develop trade with EU at competitive price while offering neighbouring countries to use this service for transit goods movement to EU, suggested Motiwala. Thomas Seiler appreciated the candid input of Motiwala and agreed that Pakistan shall be supported by international community in removing trade barriers, in current global economic conditions no country can survive on aid and no country can continue to provide aid for long periods.

He said that EU will do everything to provide technical expertise in socio-economic uplift of Pakistan and region. He said that there may be certain Human Rights issues which may prevent EU support at FATF and in extension of GSP Plus status for Pakistan; hence they should be taken care off.

Motiwala asserted his contribution to involve Government of Pakistan to raise awareness and improvement initiatives in Human Rights area at all levels. He requested EU to provide expertise on education, health and human rights index improvement.

PAJCCI also offered to arrange joint session with EU mission to provide detailed input on how to convert prevailing situation in to long term positive trading relationship with Afghanistan and beyond. It is imperative that world supports Afghan people, if not the government, to nullify any conditions giving rise to illegal elements and humanitarian crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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