ISLAMABAD: Pakistan wants to conclude bilateral arrangements of transit trade and Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Tajikistan this year in order to generate trade and investment activity with the Central Asian states, said Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir on Thursday.
During a meeting with the Republic of Tajikistan Minister for Energy Usmonzoda Usmonali Yunusali in Islamabad, Dastgir said, “Pakistan wants to enter into a large trade facilitation framework with the Central Asian states to alleviate the unwanted restrictions which bar trade and investment.”
He also provided the Tajik trade authorities with a draft of the proposed PTA on which further negotiations will take place.
“The CASA-1000 project will provide the basis to convert that transmission zone into an energy corridor where energy grids could flow both ways,” added Dastgir.
The Tajik minister said that the energy and road projects were extremely vital for their economy and the Tajik government was pursuing them aggressively. “Upon successful completion of the CASA-1000 project the two countries may explore the possibility of another relatively smaller electricity line through Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan into Pakistan,” he added.
Yunuali also hinted at importing oil from the Middle East and refining it in Pakistan before taking it up north to Tajikistan via a pipeline. “This would diversify the energy procurement options of Tajikistan in the future,” he said.
He was of the view that through the transit of energy, Pakistan would benefit greatly due to the transit fee.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the Ministry of Commerce Additional Secretary Robina Akhtar said that both agreements with Tajikistan had been under discussion for a long time.
“The working groups of both sides have already been established and they would finalise the draft agreements and exchange before a proposed bilateral meeting to be held in Dushanbe in October this year,” she said.
“Pakistan would have many advantages after the signing of agreements. Tajikistan is importing almost every commodity; in the long run, the two countries would also sign a transport agreement to further strengthen Pakistan’s connectivity with the Central Asian states,” she added.
“Pakistan wants to strengthen its trade and business relations with Afghanistan too, but the Afghan authorities seem least concerned; therefore, Pakistan has to explore other options.”
Pakistan’s exports to Tajikistan have risen from $6.89 million in 2012-13 to $7.42 million in 2014-15 while imports decreased from $0.44 million to $0.068 million during the same period.
Pakistan’s major exports to Tajikistan include sugar, dairy products, medical and pharmaceutical products, construction material including cement, rice, handicrafts and meat while major imports include machinery and its parts, chemical material and products, dyeing, tanning and coloring material.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2016.