ISLAMABAD, Jan 12: Iranian Commerce Minister Mahdi Ghazanfari said on Wednesday that trade volume between Iran and Pakistan can be enhanced by encouraging their private sectors.

Addressing a joint session of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) here, the Iranian minister said that the active role by the private sector would also strengthen social and cultural bonds between the two countries.

He said that western media was indulging in negative propaganda against Iran for imposing sanctions on it. However, the countries, which were favouring sanctions, were at the same time enhancing trade with Iran.

That was why the trade volume with the western countries had increased by 20 per cent, he disclosed.

Mr Mahdi said that Iran had increased the number of items under Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Pakistan which can now export pharmaceutical products, Halal food and meat.

He underlined the need on participation of Pakistani businessmen in Iranian trade fairs and exhibitions and exchange of business delegations.

The Iranian minister also stressed for the opening of banks in both the countries for speedy and affective transaction of business transactions.

Iran Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Dr Fakhri said that Iran's exports had reached $150 billion against imports of $50 billion. He said that now Iran was shifting its focus from the European markets towards the Asian markets.

He said that currently Iran's trade volume with China, India, UAE and Japan was more than that with Pakistan.

Replying to a question about hurdles in trade between the two countries, Ambassador of Iran to Pakistan Mashallah Shakeri said that his country was ready to fully cooperate with Pakistan.

He said that Iran had laid down a gas pipeline up to Pakistan border but the pace of work on the project in Pakistan was slow.

He said that Iran was ready to provide up to 2,000 megawatts to Pakistan. However, Pakistan is looking towards Tajikistan to fulfil its power deficiency whereas the latter was seeking Iranian support to improve its power sector.

ICCI President Mahfooz Elahi said that though the trade between the two countries had crossed $1 billion, but Iran must consider removing of high tariff and non-tariff barriers that were hampering Pakistan exports to Tehran.

FPCCI President Senator Haji Ghulam Ali urged early completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project in order to overcome the energy crisis in the country.—APP

Our reporter adds

: The Pak-Iran Joint Trade Commission (JTC) opened its sixth meeting here on Wednesday to discuss measures to improve and enlarge the bilateral trade and widening the base of existing Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).

The PTA, which is operational since September 2006, aims to provide a secure environment for sustainable growth in trade between the two countries by removing trade barriers gradually.

The last session of the commission was held in Tehran in May 2009.

Under the PTA, Pakistan and Iran granted tariff concessions on more than 600 items. Pakistan's major exports to Iran are rice, fruit, vegetable, cotton and synthetic fabric, while imports from Iran mainly comprise petroleum and petroleum products.

Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his Iranian counterpart Mehdi Ghazanfari jointly co-chaired the opening session, which was also attended by Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood, Iranian Ambassador in Islamabad and the visiting ten-member Iranian delegation.

While opening the meeting Amin Fahim stated that the joint trade commission provides a useful institutional arrangement for the two countries to discuss ways and means for further improving bilateral relations and to remove the bottlenecks that may impede the growth of bilateral trade.

In the past half decade, bilateral trade has risen from $389 million to $1.2 billion, he said.

In view of the changing environment, it has become necessary to expand and deepen the existing PTA by granting mutually agreed tariff concessions on export products, the minister emphasized.