Pak-Afghan final talks on transit trade deal this week

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Pakistan and Afghanistan are holding top level final round of talks this week on the long-awaited transit trade agreement (Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement-APTTA)), after which implementation of the pact will commence, well-informed sources told Business Recorder. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, sources say, is expected to reach Islamabad on June 10 or 11 to announce the implementation of APTTA from June 12, 2011, despite the fact that a couple of key measures, as approved in the agreement to curb frequent smuggling, have not materialised yet. There are indications that some US top official will also be present in Islamabad this week to witness the commencement of the APTTA. The sources said some amendments are expected in the agreement. For instance, Kabul has requested for review of article 25, sub-clause 2 of protocol 1, that the transit time allowed under type A and B and Temporary Admission Documents may be enhanced to 45 days in place of one month and two weeks. Top officials in the Pakistan Commerce Ministry argue that the issue of financial guarantee is yet to be resolved as Afghanistan is not ready to provide a guarantee of more than 25 per cent of leviable duties/taxes as the host country. Secretary Commerce, Zafar Mahmood, who led Pakistani delegation to attend the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Co-ordination Authority (APTTCA), recently informed the National Assembly s Standing Committee on Commerce, headed by Engineer Khurram Dastgir, that both countries have agreed that bank guarantee equivalent to the amount of customs duty applicable on goods imported under APTTA for Afghanistan, and insurance guarantee equivalent to the amount of customs duty from AAA and AA rating insurance companies would be accepted by Pakistani authorities. He, however, assured the committee that the deal will not be finalised until the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is satisfied. Secretary Commerce also snubbed Irtiqa Zaidi, a retired officer who is dealing with the APTTA, for misguiding the committee. Kabul argues that heavier amount of bank guarantees by Afghan transporters would make it virtually non-viable for Afghan transports to operate. The sources said installation of biometric system at the entry points and tracking chips on the trucks will take time to put in place. The official further maintained that Pakistan has indicated to Kabul that it will install biometric system at Torkhum by October 30, 2011. Ministry of Interior has already started the tendering process.

Courtesy : Business Recorder

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