Afghan Govt. ready to facilitate Pakistani businessmen: Afghan Finance Minister

Lahore: Finance Minister of Afghanistan Omer Zakhilwal has said that new Afghan government is ready to take all possible measures to facilitate Pakistani businessmen. Free Industrial Zones for Pakistani businessmen would be established to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

He was addressing at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry here on Wednesday. LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz presented the address of welcome while Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Janan Musa Musazai, First Secretary in the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad Barkat Ullah Rahamati, LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Nauman Kabir and Executive Committee Members were also present on the occasion.

Afghan Finance Minister said that direct links with the Lahore Chamber would be established and he invited the LCCI to arrange a trade delegation for Kabul.

He said that both countries have huge potential for  stronger economic and trade ties. He said that integration of two economies would help resolve issues being faced by the business community in the two countries.

Afghan Finance Minister said that Afghan Consulate would be opened soon in Lahore.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are two very important countries in this region. Their geo-political importance is significant. Both the Muslim countries share a bond of history, culture and traditions.

He said that Afghanistan is growing politically that is a good omen, not only for Afghanistan but for the region. He said that political harmony in Afghanistan matters a lot to Pakistan as Pakistani nation is greatest well wisher of Afghanistan and looking forward to seeing it emerge as a prospering and stable country.

LCCI President also expressed best wishes for the new Afghan President Honorable Ashraf Ghani who is also a former Finance Minister saying that his wisdom and experience can greatly benefit Afghanistan. He said that visit of Afghan President to Pakistan would open new avenues of cooperation between the two countries.

Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that Afghanistan is the third biggest export destination of Pakistan. Pakistan’s average documented exports to Afghanistan are around USD 2 billion.  From 2011 to 2013, the total recorded trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was USD 2.86 billion, USD 2.33 billion and USD 2.31 billion respectively.

He said that Afghan Transit Trade is another important aspect between two countries which has to be streamlined in an appropriate manner. This streamlining will help in controlling pilferages carried out under the cover of Afghan Transit Trade. He said that custom duties in Afghanistan and Pakistan have to be strictly implemented and attention should be paid to custom clearance of items on both the sides to avoid loss in national exchequer.

LCCI President endorsed the proposal of imposing equivalent rate of custom duty on goods imported for Afghanistan through Afghan Transit Trade Agreement. He said that once these goods are transited to Afghanistan, the Afghan Government may be refunded the same that is how this pilferage in Afghan Transit Trade can be minimized.

He also endorsed the decision of Finance Minister of Pakistan Mohammad Ishaq Dar that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan should only be done in US dollars.

He said that Pakistan exports diverse items to Afghanistan which include cements, wheat, sugar, animal or vegetable fats, oils, rice, fruits and vegetables, milk & cream, iron & steel, tubes, pipes, fiberboard of wood, soap, paints, kitchenware, electrical equipment and many others.

Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that there are very few exchanges of trade delegations between two countries, which in my opinion should be increased.  There should also be frequent interaction between representatives of private sectors of the two countries.

He said there is a dire need to develop deeper ties between the respective Chambers of Commerce & Industry so that people to people contacts could be built up further.

He said that the Afghan Embassy can be an effective player in encouraging Afghan business houses to develop contacts with chambers in Pakistan.

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