ISLAMABAD: Commerce ministers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan will meet in Islamabad next week to outline steps for enhancing economic cooperation, a critical step for the three neighbouring countries aimed at powering their economies, say officials.
The meeting is taking place in the backdrop of a trilateral summit held in Islamabad in February last year where President Asif Ali Zardari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked their commerce ministers to prioritise cooperation for socio-economic development.
The three presidents spoke of the need for increasing trade with the help of facilitation measures‚ including preferential tariff and free trade arrangements as well as barter trade.
Earlier, the ministers were scheduled to meet in Islamabad in October and November last year, but the meeting could not take place because of pressing engagements of Pakistan’s commerce minister, sources told The Express Tribune.
“Afghan Commerce Minister Dr Anwarul Haq Ahadi will attend the first-ever trilateral meeting of trade ministers to explore ways to boost trade among the three countries,” an Afghan source said on Wednesday.
The ministers would discuss possibilities of increasing the trade volume and how to facilitate traders and remove bottlenecks in the way of commerce, he said.
Officials in the commerce ministry and Iranian diplomatic sources also confirmed the meeting.
The ministers will review proposals for expanding transit trade and encouraging private sector investment. Proposals for preferential tariff, free trade and barter trade will also come under discussion.
The trilateral summit had also tasked the ministers with discussing measures to enhance connectivity by promoting cooperation in projects related to infrastructure, road and rail links, transport and communications.
The meeting will pave the way for cooperation in energy, mining and mineral, agriculture and other sectors.
An Afghan official told The Express Tribune there were bright prospects for economic cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which could take bilateral trade to $5 billion from the current $2.5 billion.
A recent decision by the two governments on visa facilitation would also give a boost to economic activities and bilateral trade, he hoped.
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