ISLAMABAD: In a rare development, Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday adopted more than 140 recommendations to promote bilateral trade and investments.
The two-day Pak-Afghan Trade and Investment Forum — which concluded on Tuesday — recommended the Pakistani government to allow five-year business and residence visa to all Afghans who are willing to start businesses in Pakistan. The Afghan side was led by Speaker Wolesi Jirga Mir Rehman Rahmani while Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser represented the Pakistani delegation.
The forum noted that business visa should grant a person legal rights such as opening of bank accounts, driving licence, ownership of property, it was recommended. In addition, Pakistan should consider allowing nationality to Afghans that invest a certain minimum amount in Pakistan’s manufacturing sector.
It was suggested that registration policies for Afghan companies be same as other international companies. Noting that double taxation discourages investments, the meeting noted that tax policies in both countries should be revised and new tax treaties be signed.
It simply appears that deliberations with the Afghan side were held in a detailed and micro-level after a long time, reflecting seriousness of the Pakistani side to promote trading relations with the neighbouring country.
The Committee to Review Transit Trade Regime came up with a 44 recommendations. It said that politics should not affect bilateral trade between two countries. Most of the recommendations relate to further facilitating people involved in transit trade, improving infrastructure and reduce dwelling time of cargo from port to border stations.
It was recommended that Pakistani trucks must be allowed to move up-to the Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan border. Similarly, Afghan trucks and vehicles should be allowed to move to Wagah border and Karachi ports.
Pakistan’s foreign mission in Jalalabad should be requested to issue road passes for uninterrupted flow of trucks and vehicles. The time limit should be increased for Pakistani trucks and cargo for crossing Afghanistan and unloading on the boarder of Tajikistan.
Branches of joint chambers of commerce should be developed at Torkham and Chaman borders in order to facilitate chamber-to-chamber relations.
Currently, there are two Afghan items on Pakistan’s negative items list — auto parts and cigarettes — which should be removed from the list, the forum said.
The Committee on Trade and Investment Opportunities in Manufacturing Sector evolved 39 recommendations, with focus on doing away with discriminatory policies between the two countries to promote investments.
Investment MOUs between Pakistan and Afghanistan for micro, small and medium enterprises should be promoted. It was recommended that security be ensured for the business community as well as skilled and unskilled labour on both sides.
The committee said that there was a need to improve trade facilitation through streamlined payments settlement and insurance mechanisms, use of bonded carriers, visa issuance, trade financing, tax collection, and documentation. Specifically, there must be internationally acceptable mode of payments.
To develop better banking channels between the two countries, the State Bank of Pakistan was urged to ease opening of bank accounts for Afghanistan businessmen, traders. Mutual facilitation of Pakistani and Afghan investors to be expedited vis-à-vis the boards of investment of both countries.
The Committee on Trade and Investment Opportunities in Agriculture, Food, Livestock and Minerals came up with 19 recommendations.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2020