Pak Afghan agree to enhance bilateral trade to USD5bn by 2015

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) here on Tuesday agreed to enhance the bilateral trade from US current $ 2,500 million ($2.5 billion) to US $ 5 billion by the year 2015, as envisioned by leaders of both the countries.
Agreement to this effect was reached after the conclusion of the 8th Session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) held here on January 16-17.

The session was Co-chaired by Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Planning and Development and Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhiwal, Minister for Finance, Afghanistan.

Later addressing a joint press conference, the Minister for Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh with Afghan Minister for Finance Dr. Hazrat Omar highlighted the major decisions of the JEC here this evening.

Dr. Hafeez Shaikh said that signing of Pakistan and Afghanistan Trasit Trade Agreement (PATTA) was a big and historic decision to boost bilateral trade between the two brotherly countries.

"Afghanistan can become a bridge to connect Pakistan vis Afghanistan to Central Asian Republics (CARs) for the benefit of the people of the region," he remarked.

He thanked the delegation from Afghanistan led by Afghanistan Minister for Finance Dr.Hazrat Omar for attending the Pakistan- Afghanistan JEC and also lauded the role of the Minister in bringing both the brotherly countries closer.

He expressed the hope that the Pak-Afghan JEC would become a platform in enhancing the trade and investment relations between the two countries.

Dr.Hafeez Shaikh said that the Pakistan-Afghan JEC discussed ways and means how to promote bilateral trade between the two countries, resolve issues related to Transit Trade between the two countries in the light of Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), review the progress of projects launched in Afghanistan with the Pakistani grant of US $ 300 million out of which $ 163 million had been spent on 29 development projects in Afghanistan

Dr.Hafeez said that he JEC also discussed to strengthen capacity building programmes for Afghanistan, to explore areas for deepening economic cooperation in the sectors of communication, engineering, education, culture, tourism, etc.

The Minister for Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the both the sides had earlier agreed to establish a Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Pakistan, he said also offered to host the inaugural session of the Joint Chamber here at Islamabad.

He said it was also agreed to explore the possibility of entering into an agreement for promotion of bilateral trade.

They also agreed to establish display centers at Kabul and Karachi for promotion of trade between the two countries.

He said that the meeting noted with satisfaction that the bilateral trade has increased during the last four years from US $ 850 million to US $ 2,500 million but was still below the potential. Both sides agreed to work closely to enhance the bilateral trade to US $ 5 billion by 2015 as envisioned by leaders of both the countries.

Dr. Shaikh said that both sides further agreed to resolve the problems faced by Afghan and Pakistani traders especially, the blockage of Afghan commercial containers bearing perishable items and fuel.

He added that the Technical Committee on Reconstruction Initiatives on Afghanistan discussed in detail the current status of various projects initiated under US$ 300 million Grant pledged by the Government of Pakistan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

Both sides, he added also expressed the desire for early completion of additional Torkham-Jalalabad carriageway adding 70 percent work on the project has been completed while remaining work will be completed in one year.

He added both the sides also agreed to generate electricity on River Kabul which would bring prosperity to the region and help check electricity shortage.

He said that the important Pakistan funded projects such as Chamman - Spinboldak- Kandahar Railways Line, Nishtar Kidney Centre, Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty and status of scholarships offered to Afghan students came under discussion.

The meeting , he said also reviewed the status of important development projects such as CASA 1000 Power Transmission Project, Turkmenistan -Afghanistan- Pakistan and India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project.

The Minister said that both the side also resolved to increase cooperation in information and media, tourism and engineering sector.

Speaking on the occasion Afghanistan Minister for Finance Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal thanked for extending warm hospitality to his delegation during JEC.

He urged the private sectors of the two countries to work together in trade and economic sectors for the benefit of the people of the two countries.

He said there is enormous potentials for trade and investment between the two brotherly countries.

He called for holding of JEC to discuss bilateral trade between the two countries.

The Afghanistan Minister for Finance requested Pakistan for resolving container issue of perishable items to the benefit of poor people of Afghanistan.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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