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Pakistan Seeking Bilateral Transit Trade with Central Asia

KABUL – The Pakistani government has decided to change the regulatory framework related to transit trade to extend its scope to the landlocked Central Asian states, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
A Pakistani official confirmed that the government has decided to streamline the regulatory framework to ensure efficient and low-cost transit trade to the Central Asian states.
The official said that the Directorate General for Transit Trade has proposed certain amendments to the regulatory framework, as transparent transit trade would strengthen Pakistan’s role in the immediate region and around the world.
“The government essentially intends to widen the scope of transit trade to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan via Torkham, Shaman and Ghulam Khan via Afghanistan,” said the official, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to comment on the matter, The News reported.
Currently, transit through Pakistan is the only viable option for Afghanistan, and the two countries have signed an Afghan-Pakistan transit trade agreement to that effect.
Official data showed that the flow of cargo increased by 44% to 93,732 containers in the last fiscal year 2018/19, compared to 60,516 containers the previous year in the context of Afghan transit trade.
The estimated value of imports of cargo in transit also rose 55% to $5.715 billion in fiscal 2019, compared to $3.97 billion a year earlier.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached agreement on the general parameters of Afghan exports to Pakistan and India and on the use of Afghan territory for Pakistan’s exports to the Central Asian states.
Authorities have said that Pakistan is at the crossroads of becoming a major trade corridor for exploiting the markets of Central Asia due to its strategic location with three efficient seaports.
The proposed changes to the framework would regulate cargoes from Pakistan imported from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; Imports from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan via the ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar in transit through Pakistan and Afghanistan; and exports from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in transit through Afghanistan and Pakistan via the ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar.
Authorities have said that Pakistan, as an important logistics hub for transit trade, will undoubtedly bring prosperity to South Asia along trade routes and beyond, as nothing opens up an area of economic development better than good transport networks with good transit rules and capacity to transport goods and people efficiently.
“Because of its geographic location, the importance of Pakistan cannot be undermined,” the Pakistani Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said on its website.
“Pakistan’s geostrategic advantage is that it shares borders with Iran, Afghanistan, China and India while the Arabian Sea connects it to the rest of the world.”
The FBR said that this advantage has not only aroused great interest among the major powers in the world but has also favored multilateral trade with neighboring countries.
“Pakistan, therefore, serves as an essential hub functioning as a logistics focal point for neighboring states, particularly landlocked Afghanistan.”
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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