ISLAMABAD: Ahead of a high-level technical delegation from Iran, the Ministry of Commerce on Monday explored various avenues to enhance bilateral trade to $5 billion in the next five years after lifting of international sanctions against Iran.

A delegation from Iran will visit Islamabad on August 25-26 to revive the trade links. Pakistan has a narrow export basket to Iran because 63 per cent of exports comprised of rice alone.

Pakistan’s exports to Iran fell to a low level of $43 million in 2014 from $182m in 2010. While Iranian imports fell to $186m in 2014 from $884m in 2010.

Pakistan signed a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Iran in 2006. Iran is not willing to convert PTA into a free trade agreement.

Tariff concessions were granted to Iran on 309 tariff lines while Pakistan was offered concessions on 338 tariff lines. Major sectors covered under the PTA were rice, fruits, cotton, cotton yarn, pharmaceutical products and cutlery.

In April 2015, Pakistan and Iran decided to prepare a five-year plan to enhance bilateral trade to the tune of $5bn. The visiting delegation will also discuss expansion of PTA. Experts predict that payment mechanism normalisation will pave way for diversification of exports to Iran.

The meeting held on Monday in the commerce ministry was attended by officials from Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank of Pakistan and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. The meeting discussed the trade complementarity with Iran and decided to actively pursue policies to enhance exports of agricultural products to Iran.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2015

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