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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar said on Wednesday said that Pakistan will sign preferential trade agreements with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan similar to those signed with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

He said this while addressing a three-day Peer Learning Initiative on Single Windows Implementation and Management, organized by the International Trade Centre in the framework of the European Union (EU) funded Ready 4 Trade Central Asia (R4TCA) and hosted by the Pakistan Single Window.

The event brings together public and private sector customs and trade experts from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to share their knowledge, experiences, and regional best practices for the development and implementation of the national single window.

Naveed Qamar, the Federal Minister for Commerce, was the Chief Guest at the opening session while the keynote address was delivered by Mukarram Jah Ansari, Member Customs Operations, Federal Board of Revenue.

Commerce Minster said that Pakistan is using modern technology for business, adding that mechanism for bilateral trade is synched with modern methods, adding that there is a need to improve the rules and regulations and provide better opportunities for business promotion.

The Minister said that trade with Afghanistan can be further promoted by providing facilities and improvement in infrastructure.

Pakistan, Kazakhstan for early finalisation of bilateral TTA

He said that the incumbent government has limited time, which implies it has to double its efforts to increase regional trade.

He appreciated the efforts of PSW and stated the need that since this is the first in-person event in Islamabad on a very important theme it makes it even more special.

“Our government is committed to deepening political, diplomatic, and trade relations with all regional states. Our ties with Central Asia go back several centuries and both regions have benefited from the free flow of idea, goods, and people over national and international boundaries from ancient times. Our government is keen to revive those ties through increased engagement on government to government and people to people levels, and by providing the enabling environment to promote regional trade and connectivity” he added.

The envoys of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also addressed the function and urged integration of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Central Asian States. The representative of Uzbekistan said that bilateral trade with Pakistan has increased but there is need to establish banking system to promote regional trade.

In his address, Member, Pakistan Customs (Operations) Mukarram Jah Ansari, said that first phase of PSW has been completed with the cooperation of development partners, adding that licences, permits and other documents of various departments are being processed in the existing single window system. Documents are now being issued electronically which reduces time and cost.

He further contended that if the time of exporters and importers is wasted then there is no benefit of single window. He said, second phase of single window will be completed in December 2022.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Maria Kazi said that further steps are required to promote regional trade. She said, bilateral trade with CARs has increased substantially but it needs more focus.

The national single window for trade and transport is an established concept that provides a digital platform for electronic exchange of information amongst different stakeholders engaged in cross border trade. The Single Window digitizes all cross-border trade related processes, procedures, regulatory and information requirements and allows for electronic processing of customs declaration and other cross border trade related documents such as import permits, licenses, export certificates, and other documents providing a paperless and streamlined cross-border trading environment.

The three-day event aims to present and discuss the state of development and implementation of the NSWs in these countries to enable mutual learning, discuss past and present challenges in implementation, and share best practices and lessons learned. It will also ensure that regional networks of exports are established, intensify sharing knowledge on obstacles to trade, strengthen trust among experts and formulate coordinated solutions in facilitating trade and border practices.

In his welcome note, Pierre Bonthonneau, ITC Senior Trade Facilitation Adviser said, “Peer Learning Initiatives are to network with the same people who are facing similar challenges, to exchange ideas for bringing reforms and to create a human infrastructure that is necessary for coordination and connection of countries for trade reforms.”

Pakistan recently rolled out its own Single Window-Pakistan on June 30, 2022 in line with its commitments under the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. The system integrates Pakistan Customs, Department of Plant Protection, Animal Quarantine Department, Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department, Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority, and the Export Development Fund. In addition, 29 commercial banks are also integrated with the PSW platform for exchange of cross border trade related financial information in real time.

PSW has successfully integrated with the IBM/ Maersk owned Tradelens system while technical discussions for integration with the China Single Window are currently in progress.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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