ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan have extended the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) for three months, after failing to complete discussion and deliberation on the agreement despite its expiry last month.
In this regard, an additional protocol to the agreement was signed by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce & Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, and Minister of Industry and Commerce of Afghanistan in a ceremony held over a video link on Thursday.
The agreement which had been signed by two neighbouring countries for improving trade in 2010 had expired in February this year.
According to officials privy to the development, the decision to extend the agreement is aimed at preventing any disruption in trade and transit affairs between the two countries whereas the extension would buy time for the two countries to further discuss the proposed amendments in the agreement.
According to Dawood, his vision for trade and economic relations with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) is to make Pakistan a hub for trade, transit and transhipment. “Our trade must be based on the secure, open, consistent, reliable and legal movement of goods at the Afghan border along with enhanced connectivity with Afghanistan and CARs”, he said.
He said that this will ensure that Pakistan leverages its geo-economic location in the region to enhance its international trade. “Our discussions with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are a step in this direction,” he added.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the extension of the agreement and decided that technical teams of the two countries will conclude the revised agreement soon.
According to sources, the work on technical issues of the agreement was already underway and would be signed in compliance with World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) principles.
It is pertinent to mention here that Afghanistan’s free trade to India via Pakistan and Pakistan’s cargo transit to Central Asia through Afghanistan was one of the five major issues that need to be revised in the APTTA; however, neither of the two countries have come up with an agreement on the amended issues after months of discussions.
On the other hand, Afghanistan’s private sector continues to raise its concerns about the closure of trade and transit routes by Pakistan in the last 10 years.
Officials at the Ministry of Commerce said that two meetings had been held last year for the revision of APTTA. During the meetings, it was discussed that the agreement’s text would be revised and updated by incorporating proposed amendments, additions and suggestions and by deleting redundant articles if any.
Over the last decade, a total of 832,819 containers of Afghan transit trade carrying goods worth $33 billion have passed through Pakistan, as per data compiled by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Directorate General of Transit Trade, which totals 30pc of Afghan transit trade cargo, whereas the remaining passed through Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.