ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has launched consultation with stakeholders to initiate formal negotiations with Afghanistan for reduction of duty and taxes under the proposed Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).
The proposed PTA is estimated to enhance volume of bilateral trade to nearly $5 billion in the next five years from the current less than $2bn. The negotiations are scheduled to be completed by end of January 2021.
Top officials of the two countries have agreed recently to kick off negotiations on the much-awaited PTA leading to a comprehensive free trade agreement. Adviser on Commerce Razak Dawood also visited Kabul last week to improve bilateral trade relations.
Razak told Dawn that he chaired the first consultative session with stakeholders on proposed Pak-Afghanistan PTA at the Ministry of Commerce on Thursday. He said representatives of engineering sector, pharmaceuticals, fruits and vegetables, milk, attended the meeting.
The adviser said that this consultation will now be followed by sector-specific meetings so that Pakistan’s Request List for the PTA can be finalised with Afghanistan at negotiations expected to take place at around middle of next month.
“I request all exporters to send their proposals to commerce ministry at the earliest,” he said, adding bilateral trade with Afghanistan has to be placed on a sustainable growth path. He said the priority of the government is to revive Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan to the level of $2.5bn. He said the PTA will help in achieving this goal.
Razak said Kabul has submitted a PTA request list of items for consideration which includes mostly fruits both fresh and dry as well as vegetables.
He said in the first four months of this fiscal year exports to Afghanistan posted a 16pc growth reversing the falling trend in the last few years owing to souring relations with Kabul and border closures.
A few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination after the United States. Answering a question, the adviser said that Afghanistan has requested to facilitate Afghan patients to visit Pakistani hospitals. “We have agreed to their proposals and would consider all possible facilitation”, he said.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020