Pakistan, Afghanistan begin talks on transit trade agreement

19:36, July 06, 2010      

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The finance ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan Tuesday opened two-day talks intended to reach understanding on a proposed transit trade agreement, according to local news media APP.

In May 2009, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding to begin talks on a transit trade agreement which is also likely to allow India to use Pakistan's land route for trade with Kabul. Pakistan has not been willing to grant India land route access to Kabul.

They had agreed to finalize the agreement by the end of 2009, but differences over several issues delayed the agreement and it is expected to be signed during an international conference in Kabul.

Last month, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart called for early finalization of a transit trade agreement.

Afghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal is leading his country's delegation in talks with Pakistani counterpart Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, said an official, adding that Afghan Minister for Mines is also a member of the Afghan delegation.

"We enter into negotiations today with an open mind and positive attitude with the intention to address the outstanding issues and find solutions," Pakistan Finance Minister said in his opening statement at the talks.

Pakistan and the landlocked Afghanistan signed transit trade agreement in 1960s and they want to sign a new one Afghanistan- Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

Officials said that currently the bilateral trade is around 1.5 billion dollars, and with this new arrangement in place bilateral trade could easily be enhanced to five billion dollars by 2015.

Pakistan Finance Minister said that the Joint Working Group, representing the stakeholders of both the countries, have so far held 6 rounds of talk to finalize new transit trade agreement.

"Significant progress has been made so for during the 6 rounds, "he said.

But sources said that Pakistan is still concerned about the smuggling to Pakistan of the items imported under the transit trade and wants measures to curb this practice.

Sources said Pakistani side will urge Afghan delegation to place major smuggling prone items in negative list under new APTTA.

Pakistanis are of the view that several items including tea, tyres, electronic equipment and fabrics are smuggled back to Pakistan.

Officials said Pakistan has also proposed a new mechanism to check smuggling under the new APTTA by imposing quantitative restriction on transit goods on the basis of actual consumption in Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua


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