Islamabad keen to promote economic ties with Tehran: Pak FM

IRNA – Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Muhammad Asif says his country is committed to expand its deepening economic and commercial interaction with Iran.

Addressing the Iran-Pakistan Business Conference in Islamabad on Monday in the presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he said the government of Pakistan in recent years has taken measures to facilitate business contacts with Iran and enhance exchanges in the field of economy and trade.

He added the event is aimed at exploring ways and means for enhancing bilateral trade and economic interaction between Iran and Pakistan to promote mutual prosperity.

“I am confident that this interaction will provide useful guidance to both governments for increasing mutually beneficial economic and commercial interaction between economic and business entities of the two countries.”

He said that Iran and Pakistan are two brotherly neighboring countries with centuries old ties and that around 1,000 kilometers long border between them is the border of peace and friendship and offers immense opportunities for profitable trade and economic exchanges between the people living on both sides of the border.

The minister also said the governments of the two countries have a solemn obligation to transform their huge potential into economic benefits. “While the governments work to create sound policy frame work, businessmen have to play a key role in achieving this shared objective.”

“I believe that in coming years our focus has to be on further strengthening these efforts in collaboration with the Iranian government and economic institutions.”

In this regards, Asif added, three areas are significant, one improving the environment for undertaking business between Iran and Pakistan, two increasing bilateral economic and trade exchanges and deepening connectivity.

‘Pakistan has taken several measures to facilitate business contacts with Iran and the bilateral trade has demonstrated a consistent growth in past two years. Today the bilateral trade has crossed a billion dollar mark and prospects for further growth remain very bright.”

“We should continue our mutual efforts for achieving the target set by the two sides of five billion dollars annual trade by 2021. We are focusing on addressing the impediments in trading activities,” he said.

The minister said that early conclusion of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would be beneficial for both the countries and a concerted effort is required for addressing non-tariff barriers which continue to hamper export of many items.

“We are also focusing to facilitate business interaction and in this regards two measures can be useful one is more frequent air connection between Iran and Pakistan so that businessmen can have ease of movement, secondly the banking channel is important and we are optimistic that State Bank of Pakistan and Bank Melli of Iran could find a way of implementation of banking and payment arrangement.”

Asif said it is deeply satisfying that economic and business related exchanges between the two countries have progressively increased since 2014. ‘I sincerely believe that trade bodies can be instrumental to promote trade and economic exchanges in meaningful manner.’

Today Gwadar and Chabahar are two sister ports and provide an opportunity to complement each other in the future transit trade activities in the region, he added.

‘Pakistan and Iran are contemplating measures for establishing a rail, road link between two ports and the work is underway to operationalize two new border crossings agreed by our leaders. We should also make progress on establishing border markets on either sides of the border.”

He said there are plans for starting as ferry service between Karachi, Gwadar and Chabahar for the movement of pilgrims but it can also facilitate mutual trade.

Iran and Pakistan need to redouble their efforts for enhancing trade and economic interaction which remains much below the actual potential, said the foreign minister.