Pakistan, Afghanistan discuss trade initiatives

Islamabad: Afghanistan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi arrived in Pakistan on Monday to hold important day-long talks on economic cooperation and trade issues, officials said.

The Pakistan-Afghan Joint Economic Commission meeting was earlier scheduled to be held in August but was postponed due to tensions that have also derailed the Pakistan-brokered peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban.

Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar stressed the need for ensuring implementation of decisions taken between the two countries, Radio Pakistan reported.

A Pakistani finance ministry official said the issues to be discussed include taxation, trade facilitation, motorways, highways and railway projects, increase in scholarships for Afghan students in Pakistani medical and engineering colleges, transportation, energy projects, as well as potential joint ventures in various other sectors.

An Afghanistan diplomatic source said the delegation will raise “problems of the Afghan traders because of the non-implementation of the transit trade deal,” Xinhua news agency reported.

The source said Kabul may also insist on permission to Afghan trucks using Pakistan land route for trade with India. Currently Pakistan allows Afghan trucks to drop goods at the India-Pakistan border checkpost at Wagah.

The present bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan stands at nearly $2.5 billion. The two sides have agreed to increase it to $5 billion by 2017.