ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Tuesday signed five memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to boost cooperation in the field of investment, economic and technical assistance, small and medium enterprises, ports and handicraft.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of MoUs on Tuesday evening at the 19th session of Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC). Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Dr Ali Tayyebnia headed the Iranian delegation to the meeting.
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the visiting minister called on the prime minister and discussed Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations, with particular reference to economic dimension. Both the sides underscored the importance of deep bilateral relations for increased trade and economic cooperation.
The Premier expressed the hope that the session would open new avenues of cooperation while fortifying the existing initiatives that the two brotherly countries have engaged in so far. The meeting agreed to increase mutual investment and bilateral trade between the two countries.
At the sideline of the JEC, Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastagir Khan said that Pakistan wants to make the current Preferential Trade agreement (PTA) with Iran effectively operational and expand it by including more items of trade in the reduced tariff list.
During the talks at the ministry of commerce, the minister emphasised the need to engage in a constructive and positive dialogue to develop trade relations between Pakistan and Iran on mutually beneficial terms and to make them more sustainable.
He said that Pakistan wants to enhance the limited trade base between the two countries which currently stands at $217 million and comprises mainly oil and gas from Iran and rice from Pakistan to a broader base which may include meat, fruits, textile, surgical items, sports goods, gems and jewellery, in addition to rice as regular items of trade.
The minister was of the view that to start with, the two countries may use barter as preferential mode of trading for a short-term until some suitable and recognised mechanism of payment is chalked out.
The Iranian side proposed the establishment of border markets to facilitate trade among local communities residing in the border provinces of the two countries. They proposed that initially four such markets can be set up which may be increased depending upon their efficacy in the first phase.
The Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance proposed to develop Joint Economic Zones which would have necessary facilities to attract investment. Iran has one such successful zone with Qatar which does not even border Iran.
Mr Dastagir, proposed Gwadar-Chahbahar Joint Economic Zone which has the potential to grow immensely. He asked the Iranian side to initiate dialogue among the relevant authorities to develop mutually recognised standards and specifications which are accepted all across the two countries.
The two sides agreed to develop better data exchange systems between the two countries and to enhance and develop border posts to facilitate trade and movement of visitors across the border.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2014