Pakistani and Afghan traders voiced concerns at the sharp fall in bilateral trade due to political tensions between the neighbors and impediments to the implementation of transit trade agreements.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) organized the “Cross-Border Round table” in collaboration with Pakistani Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and a UK-based organization called Safeworld.
At a joint press conference with Afghan traders at the end of talks in Islamabad, PAJCCI Chairman Muhammad Zubair Motiwala called on both governments to separate trade from politics.
In a unanimous resolution released at the conclusion of talks, the traders said: “We want governments on both sides to segregate business ties from political and security tensions and suggest bilateral and transit trade needs rejuvenation.”
In 2014, the two countries had pledged to boost bilateral trade to 5 billion US dollars in five years. But worsening relations, blame game, border closures and obstacles to implementation of transit agreements have affected the trade volume.
They called for confidence-building measures to overcome mistrust in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship that was not only hampering political dialogue but also significantly impacting economic cooperation between the two countries.
Afghan Chambers of Commerce President Khan Jan Alkozai said Pakistani traders were interested in trade through Gawadar and Karachi port as they were near to Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan has been facilitating Pakistan trade with the Central Asian states and Afghan businessmen also want similar cooperation from the Pakistani side” Alkozai said.
The delegates demanded a meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) on facilitating discussions to revive the economic transition leading to peace and prosperity across the border.
Pakistan had hosted the last meeting of APTACA, an important forum to deal with problems affecting smooth implementation of the 2010 revised transit treaty in February 2016.
Afghanistan was to host its 7th meeting in Kabul in September 2017. But the meeting was postponed amid tensions. An Afghan delegate, who had been involved in Pak-Afghan trade talks for years, said the APTTCA should meet every six months.