ISLAMABAD: A regional trade corridor linking Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul has finally been shaped up and expected to be opened this year, it was announced here on Thursday.
The trade link is being established under the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) signed by Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) 10 years ago.
Announcing the decision taken at the conclusion of the 5th meeting of ECO Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC), Federal Minister for Communications Arbab Alamgir Khan told a news conference that all the 10 ECO member states had agreed on the basic and fundamental parameters to launch the first trade corridor which will allow Pakistani transporters to carry goods up to Turkey via Iran.
On the second phase, Mr Alamgir Khan said, steps will be taken to extend this trade corridor up to the countries of European Union, and in this regard, instructions have been issued to take practical measures.
The minister said that Pakistan had proposed two trade corridors Pakistan-Iran-Turkmenistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan.
“Pakistan fully realises the difficulties being faced by the landlocked countries of ECO, and wants these countries to be linked up with the world through the expanded facilities of transit trade,” the minister remarked.
Alamgir disclosed that it had been proposed that the trade corridor of Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan will pass through the Lowari Tunnel to bring prosperity to the region and speedy provision of Pakistani products in Tajikistan.
Ten years ago, ECO member states signed the TTFA and to make it an effective mechanism had set up five committees: Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul transport corridor committee; road committee; insurance committee; transit trade committee; and transit transport coordination council. All these committees wrapped up their five-day meetings here on Thursday.
The ECO member countries were presently engaged in mutual consultations to give practical shape to the road cargo service.
Pakistan has already proposed six important routes, which will be finalised within a month, for boosting commercial activities with Iran and Turkey.
Explaining other decisions taken at the meeting, the communication minister anno-unced that ECO member states had agreed in principle to issue ‘white cards’ to facilitate trade on the pattern of ‘green card’ in the insurance sector of Europe.
In addition, rules and regulations were being formed to launch the insurance scheme under which transporters of all ECO member states will have insurance facility on equal basis.
The International Road Transport Union has stressed the need for capacity building of Pakistani transporters and offered its services in this regard, he said.
The transport industry in Turkey has made tremendous progress over the past few years and has offered Pakistan to gain benefit from its experience.
As far as the customs procedures were concerned, he said that the government was equipping customs posts at borders in order to facilitate the trade traffic. This will help speedy process of customs clearance and increase the volume of trade, he said.
On the pattern of European Union, ECO countries are likely to issue ‘ECO visa’ to drivers and transporters of member countries.
This measure is aimed at extending the scope of trade activities to the countries of European Union so that our transport can also get access to Europe.
“The transport in Pakistan has improved and now we have trucks up to the European standards. The government is making efforts to get access to the relevant international conventions,” the minister said.
Replying to a question, the minister said that the country suffered a loss of Rs100 billion over a period of nine years due to NATO container service to Afghanistan via Pakistan.
Since the road sector is also being used by Pakistani transporters as well, the ministry of communication has decided to seek only 21 per cent of the total cost of damage so that these roads could be rehabilitated as per international standards, he said.
Asked whether the trade corridors would remain safe in terms of security situation, Alamgir said that the government could not change its priorities.
“Nations face challenges but overcome them with the passage of time,” he remarked.