Tuesday July 16, 2024

Business community, govt meet on critical issues hampering trade

By Bureau report
March 14, 2022

PESHAWAR: The business community representatives and government officials deliberated critical issues hampering the smooth trade to have them resolved.

Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC), led by NSA Moeed Yusuf arranged a meeting with the Pak-Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), Ministry of Commerce, State Bank of Pakistan and other relevant government ministries.

Moeed Yusuf listened to the problems raised by the office-bearers and members of the PAJCCI.

The PAJCCI had recently submitted a detailed report on high impact issues to honourable Prime Minister Imran Khan, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and relevant ministries.

The recommendation by the PAJCCI to extend the suspension of the EIF and E-form was accepted by the government.

The NSA assured that an extension for the suspension of E-Form & EIF will be provided before the expiry of the current suspension. However, the Ministry of Commerce was asked to ensure both sides speed up the process of finalizing the barter trade mechanism to avoid further extension.

Third-party payment processing refusal by commercial banks where payment has been released by corresponding banks will be taken up by SBP on a case-to-case basis, details of such cases will be provided by PAJCCI.

SBP Director Arshad Bhatti said any payments issues in the Central Asian Republic transit trade were due to offloading carried out in Afghanistan.

However, in the light of recent development allowing the free movement of trucks in both countries this issue will be resolved.

The NSA confirmed that in a week’s time body searches and physical checks at borders would be carried out by Frontier Corps, adding the luggage would be checked by Pakistan Customs instead of National Logistic Cell in lieu of notification to be issued by the Interior Ministry.

The MOC officials said they had no reservations over making the “Nawapass” border operational. However, the Government of Afghanistan is yet to agree due to a lack of resources.

They said the timings at all border crossings could be increased, however, it has to be a reciprocal act as currently the Afghan government lacks resources to manage lengthy hours and open more borders.

It was added that the MOC would also carry out the exercise to rationalize tariff and PAJCCI would provide a list of the top 10 items which could be used for pilot testing. The MOC is working on increasing items in the Pak rupee trading category as well as alternative process to manage rebates and tax refund claims in case of trading in Pak rupee.

The NSA said on the matter of border congestion, bonded warehouse, facilitating pedestrian traffic, gradually infrastructure was being improved on existing borders and new borders would be opened once infrastructure was in place.

However, he said, the Afghan side had to construct some facilities on their side, especially for pedestrian traffic.

Additional FIA counters have been set up at borders, separate lines for patients are already functioning whereas the same for business visa holders will also be set up with ongoing infrastructure development.

He said the government of Pakistan had already offered infrastructure upgrades on the Afghan side which had yet to be agreed by their government.

Moeed Yusuf appreciated PAJCCI’s recommendation to install information signboards in English, Urdu and local languages for people crossing borders for their guidance and ordered the implementation of the same.

The Minister of Commerce officials updated on the agreement to allow free movement of trucks with the support of the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul and consulates in other cities.

In case of visit visa renewal, the applicants can apply online instead of travelling to the Pakistan Embassy.

It was also asked that if goods are cleared at one border point, then clearance documents shall be accepted by all law enforcement entities across the country. This will be more pertinent when the free truck movement starts from 21st March.

The NSA confirmed that the policy on investment and the joint venture would be floated in the next two weeks which would provide the guideline on business-friendly visa regime, including facilitation to set up business in Pakistan.

He said the Afghan policy shall also be reciprocal in providing visa, security, priority and facilitation to Pakistani investor.

It was added that the resumption of the bus service between the two countries has been finalized and was likely to start in a month’s time providing ease of travel to pedestrians.

PAJCCI Chairman Zubair Motiwala thanked the NSA and members of AICC for arranging the meeting and agreeing to PAJCCI’s recommendations in various areas of improvement.

He assured that PAJCCI would take all steps to communicate the government of Pakistan’s concerns to the Afghan government and business community of both sides.