ISLAMABAD, Jan 13: Pakistan and Iran on Thursday agreed to formulate a five-year strategic plan for tripling the bilateral trade volume from the existing $1.2 billion through reduction in duty and taxes on more items under the operational preferential trade agreement.

At the conclusion of the 6th meeting of Pak-Iran Joint Trade Committee (JTC), the both sides also agreed to constitute a joint working group (JWG) to explore ways for enhancement of trade and possibility of initiating dialogue on a free trade agreement (FTA).

Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Iranian Minister for Commerce Dr Mehdi Ghazanfari signed a four-page minutes envisaging various measures for promoting trading relations between the two countries.

According to the minutes, a copy of which available with Dawn, showed that the first meeting of the working group would be convened within four months in Tehran to explore ways for increasing annual trade by 25 per cent, improvement of infrastructure roads, railways considering more items for duty reduction and possibility of a possible FTA.

It will also look into removal of non-tariff barriers; enhancement of private sector cooperation and joint investment, holding of a single country exhibition, direct flights between Pakistan and Iran, removal of border trade barriers, resolution of bilateral trade transactions in Iranian Rials and Pak rupees, facilitating transit trade, engineering and consultant services.

Under the preferential trade agreement (PTA) both countries have granted tariff concessions on 647 items. Both sides agreed to expand the PTA and exchanged wish lists.

It was decided that both sides will convey response to the lists within four months time through diplomatic channels. Both sides agreed that the duty rates accepted at the time of signing of existing PTA should be observed and implemented.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Iran Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) for bilateral cooperation.

Iran offered to provide a free space of 1500 sq. metres at Zahidan for holding a single country exhibition by Pakistan in 2011, which was accepted by Islamabad. Iranian side also offered to host B2B and investors meetings alongside single country exhibition.

The Iranian side expressed the desire to hold a single country exhibition in Karachi in 2011 and Pakistan agreed to provide space at concessional rates of 50 per cent subject to regulations of TDAP.

The Iranian side requested for operationalising the Quarantine Office at Taftan. Pakistan assured that necessary efforts would be made in this regard.

The Pakistan side reiterated the request for submission of pest risk analysis report in respect of fruits/vegetables exports to Pakistan. The Iranian side assured that Ministry of Jehad Agriculture, Iran would be requested to expedite the said report.

Both sides suggested that the border market of Reemdan/Gabd (Mile 250) should be upgraded to International Border Crossing Point.

Both sides emphasised encouraging their business communities and financial institutions to promote trade through commercial banks of the two countries within Asian Clearing Union (ACU) framework.