ISLAMABAD, AUG 30 /DNA/ – PAJCCI kicked off 10th Focus Group Discussion on “full realization of bilateral trade Potential” at Islamabad. The meeting was attended by large number of business community members from Pakistan & Afghanistan, government officials from Transit Trade, Customs, FBR, Ministry of Commerce, NLC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of trade associations and media.
The core objective was removing trade barriers, deliberating and recommending measures to realize trade potential between the two countries, identifying ways & means to develop sustainable policy framework for long term bilateral and transit trade using each other’s capability and resources, capitalizing on the strengths of private stakeholders, B2B connectivity, setting up of border bazaars to raise employment amongst SME and home industry, encouraging and involving businesswomen to play their role in economic uplift of both the countries.
Zubair Motiwala; Chairman PAJCCI established that frequent meetings and coordination between the B2B members from both sides has been very effective method in bringing the issues faced by business community to the attention of both governments. PAJCCI has been instrumental in arranging meetings not only in big cities but at border crossings which provided insights in to real ground situation where the actual land route trade operations happen. As a result, border committees are formed at Torkham and Chaman which provides relief on daily operational hindrances faced by traders, transporters and at times to customs and security officials. He expressed his pleasure that for the first time after last year’s government change in Afghanistan, members of Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry are also participating and PAJCCI has been able to provide them working platform and technical support to revive women led businesses in Afghanistan.
He summarized the issues and barriers in Transit & bilateral trade, tariff rationalization, infrastructure development, cross-stuffing and de-stuffing of transit containers, balance of trade, cost of business due to various elements, exploration of new items in both countries for trading, methods and tools for realizing full potential of USD 15Bn trade between Pakistan & Afghanistan, coordination with both governments, raising business community concerns with solutions are ongoing tasks willingly taken up by PAJCCI and its executive management on both sides.
He remarked that governments will have to work with B2B stakeholders from both sides for economic uplift, trade dynamics have drastically changed globally; both governments, USA, UK and other regional trading partners have to sit together and finalize trade agreements as an exception like APPTA which is due for dynamic changes to ensure that region trades instead of asking for loans and becomes self sufficient in meeting socio-economic needs of its population. He stressed that if private stakeholders (traders/businesses) agree on certain policy, tariff and process changes then governments must facilitate to generate much neededbrevenue. Trade is the way to economic success and well being of populace.
He proposed the resolution for APPTA amendments and formal sign off which was endorsed by the house jointly. He also proposed to contribute generously for the rehabilitation of flood victims in both countries. He assured the house that PAJCCI will take up all issues discussed in FGD and at other forums will be followed up with respective governments till final resolution.
Khan Jan Alokozai; Co-Chairman PAJCCI lauded arranging frequent meetings and forums where problems are not only discussed but resolved to large extent. He said that in recent months several issues have been resolved by Government of Pakistan like congestion at borders, abolishment of sales tax on fresh products being imported from Afghanistan, priority clearance of perishable items, formation of border committees, increased import of coal and raw cotton from Afghanistan and providing transit trade facilities at Pakistani Sea ports and ease of movement for Afghan transport. He assured that pending issues on Afghan side are being taken up with Afghan government and recommended that certain top-level issues like tariff rationalization on coal, raw cotton, transit trade policy, TAD operationalization and pending T1 submissions be discussed at government levels for quick resolution.
Arbab Qaiser; Director Transit Trade, responding to various questions apprised the forum that Pakistan Customs have issued notification to shipping lines for waiver of detention and demurrages charges in the wake of held up cargoes due severe flooding in the border areas. He informed that now clearance rate at Torkham border is 1200 containers instead of 600 hundred as a result of measures taken by Government of Pakistan. Government has now also allowed transit cargo flights from all airports to Kabul. Rules of cross & de-stuffing of cargo are formally approved and available on FBR website. Business community is requested to study and provide feedback to GOP. By mid-September 2022 the SRO will be issued thus resolving long standing issue of empty containers being sent back & forth, high cost of detention & demurrage, delays and losses. He said that recently Pakistan Customs provided technical support to Khost Customs for filing of T-1 forms however pending 25,000 T-1 forms have not been uploaded by Afghan customs despite several commitments. Another important matter is to construct 1 Km Road on Afghan side at Torkham which will reduce congestion by greater degree and will also increase trade quantum for Afghanistan which is much needed for their economic well-being. All issues highlighted in PAJCCI arranged meetings are already under resolution process by GOP and critical ones will be priority handled.
Tayyaba Mashal; Member Board of Directors and head of Secretariat Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry said that Afghan businesswomen prefer to work with Pakistani businesswomen due to shared cultural and social ties, are closer to each other than any other country, requested help to revive Afghan women led businesses and proposed formation of Women to Women business council for trade.
Mahvash Tariq, Director PAJCCI and COO Epla Laboratories raised concern of pharma companies due to high custom duty applied from Afghan side and urged to provide preferential treatment to Pakistan as reciprocity to the endeavors of Pakistan side.
The forum jointly endorsed Motiwala’s resolution that B2B community has a bigger role to play in the region, governments must facilitate the business community, future of Pakistan-Afghanistan is tied together in socio-economic field, both are each other’s helping hands in increasing transit trade with CAR using the bilateral facilities, both governments need to jointly develop long, medium- & short-term policy framework sustainable in changing situations whether internal or external.
The house prayed for the departed flood victims and early rehabilitation of the impacted areas on both sides of the border.
PAJCCI Executive Management also attended side line meetings with Miftah Ismail; Federal Minister for Finance & Revenue and Naveed Qamar; Federal Minister for Commerce -Government of Pakistan; provided insights on trade barriers with Afghanistan with innovative solutions. Chairman & Co-Chairman also apprised the ministers on potential of transit trade with CAR through both countries and efforts of Business community in bringing much needed revenue.
PAJCCI re-affirms its commitment to take up all means to raise the voice of business community to both governments and will do everything possible to arrange future meetings in Afghanistan as an enhanced engagement activity.