Dar for enhancing Pak-Afghan bilateral trade to US$ 5 bln

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 23 (APP): Minister for Finance,Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar here on Monday reiterated the government’s resolve for enhancing Pak-Afghan trade volume up to US$ 5 billion till 2017 by facilitating the trade and businesses of both the countries.
Addressing the 10th Session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) which was held here, the minister stressed the need for working single-mindedly to meet trade volume of US$ 5 billion till 2017 set during last JEC.
Afghan Minister for Finance, Eklil Ahmad Hakimi along with other delegates from Afghanistan attended the meeting and discussed different ways and means to enhance bilateral trade between both the countries.
Ishaq Dar said that as part of Pakistan’s vision for a “peaceful and
prosperous” neighborhood, it places great emphasis on stable and cooperative ties with Afghanistan and believes that a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Afghanistan was in our best interest.
Brotherly ties are beneficial for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and would serve to enhance peace and security between the two countries, he remarked.
The minister said constructive interaction at the top leadership level has given a major thrust to our bilateral relations which must be sustained and further strengthened.
Finance Minister said most of the decisions taken during the last JEC
session as well as those taken during the visit of President Dr Ashraf Ghani in November 2014 have been implemented.
There are, however, he said still some decisions that need to be
implemented on a faster pace. In order to move forward we have included these unimplemented decisions in the agenda and they will be now looked into by experts from both sides.
Ishaq Dar also recommend early finalization of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and said that government was awaiting a response from Afghanistan.
The minister draw the attention of JEC towards some of the tariff and non tariff issues regarding bilateral as well as Transit Trade between the two countries.
In this regard, he said some issues were raised by the Afghan Finance
Minister in February 2015 which were duly replied to by the Finance Minister on March 3, 2015.
He said relevant trade issues were also discussed in a meeting with Afghan Ambassador adding that these issues were taken up with the relevant authorities and reasonable progress has been made towards facilitation of trade.
Further details in this regard will be shared with Afghan side during
today’s technical session, he added.
The minister urged Afghanistan for expediting process of activation of
Joint Business Council and its meeting be held as soon as possible which would boost confidence of the Pak-Afghan investors in a big way.
Finance Minister asked for facilitating business to business contacts for boosting bilateral trade. “For trade facilitation, we are hoping that Afghanistan would consider relaxing the visa issue regime which impedes visits of Pakistani businessmen”.
Ishaq Dar emphasized the process of issuance of visa to the businessmen may be reciprocated. “We are very keen that our businessmen and your businessmen grow their businesses and sustain our relations”, he added.
He apprised the Afghan delegates about updates on some of the projects
being funded by Committee on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (CRRA).
FWO and NESPAK, he said have been mobilized at Torkham-Jalalabad additional carriageway site. The tentative completion date of the project is December, 2016.
As regards 200 beds Jinnah Hospital at Kabul, Rs 118.854 million were
released to NLC to ensure an early completion of the project, similarly, the
hostel building for 1,000 students at Rehman Baba School is nearing completion and will hopefully be operationalised during the first half of next year, he added.
Ministry of National Health Services is coordinating with PIMS and
Institute of Kidney Diseases Centre, Peshawar to train 117 trainees for Nishtar Kidney Centre, Ishaq Dar said.
In this regard, he said curricula and training material have also been
finalized and further modalities in this regard will be discussed by experts from both countries.
The minister urged the Afghan government for deputing doctors, staff and also provide electricity at the hospital so that its functioning starts at the earliest.
Regarding the project of Chaman to Spinboldak rail link, he emphasized on relevant authorities of both sides for professional cooperation so that
construction of Chaman to Spinboldak section by Pakistani side may synchronize with construction of Kandahar to Spinboldak section by the Afghan side.
He informed under the Scholarship Scheme for Afghan Students, so far a
total of 2,255 students, against the target of 3,000 have been admitted in MBBS, engineering and other disciplines.
Remaining students, he said will be accommodated during fiscal year 2015-16 adding that a batch of 295 students graduated in December 2014 while another 305 Afghan students will complete their studies by December 2015. We hope that these students will become ambassadors of goodwill.
Ishaq Dar said that as a goodwill gesture, the government has settled the dues with Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supply Corporation and the
transporters for the supply of 50,000 tons of wheat.