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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Monday stressed the significance of the Central Asian market for Pakistan and called for efforts to expand trade with the region and beyond.

A meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs took place, which also recommended striking a balance and keeping national interest in mind when it comes to trade relations with Russia, Europe, and America.

One member of the committee recommended more care in trade relations with Russia, while pointing to the FATF, GSP plus status, and relations with the EU and the US.

However, other members stated that some European countries are also engaged in energy and food trade with Russia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce jointly briefed the committee on Pakistan’s trade with Russia and Central Asian Republics and the institutional structure, procedures and protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mohsin Dawar, presided over the meeting.

The chairman highlighted the significance of the Central Asian market for expanding Pakistan’s trade and urged the need to accelerate efforts to expand trade within the region and beyond. He stated that unhindered trade was vital to the region’s quest for shared prosperity.

He added that after a series of consultations on trade with Russia and Central Asian Republics, the Committee would compile comprehensive recommendations to assign substantive meanings to Pakistan’s quest for regional connectivity and trade and investment flow.

The members of the Committee raised questions regarding preferential trade agreements, dispute resolution mechanisms, establishment of banking channels to facilitate formal trade, customs procedures, flight operations and implications of the sanctions imposed on Russia in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine War and Pakistan’s negotiation with the EU for extension of the GSP plus Scheme.

The committee was informed that the government attached immense importance to regional connectivity, trade and investment in the region and beyond. It was revealed that as a block the region has produced the highest growth rate in trade expansion during the last few years. It was highlighted that institutional arrangement in the form of Joint Working Groups have been put in place and preferential bilateral trade agreements, business forums, trade exhibitions, and business-friendly custom procedures were pursued to facilitate trade and transit opportunities in the region.

The members urged the chair to invite the Aviation Division to brief the committee on the status and potential of direct flights from Pakistan to Central Asian Republics. The members also sought an in-camera briefing on the procedures of dealing with diplomatic cyphers. The members sought details about the number of Pakistani officials posted in various missions under different headings.

Mohsin Dawar, MNA Muhammad Khan, MNA Zahra Wadood Fatemi, MNA Ali Nawaz Shah, and MNA Ahmad Hussain Deharr attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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