KARACHI: In an attempt to reduce hurdles to trade, the government of Afghanistan has asked Pakistan to reduce the high cost of tracking containers and prime-movers as it is causing trouble for Afghan importers and businesses.
Afghanistan made the request at the fourth annual meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) held on October 8 and 9 in Kabul.
The Afghan side said their traders were being charged both for the tracking device installed on trucks and containers. They suggested that the cost of the device installed on prime-movers should be borne by the transport operator and also sought a reduction in the device cost.
In reply, Pakistan officials assured them that they would take up the issue with the stakeholders for its resolution.
The request from Kabul comes at a time when the government of Pakistan has vowed that it will set up an advanced information technology database and container tracking system in one month to stop theft of Afghan and Nato containers and discourage smuggling along the Pak-Afghan border.
Afghan officials also said that during the third APTTCA meeting held in October 2012 Pakistan agreed to allow partial shipment of consignments from December 2012, but the facility had not been provided so far.
Pakistan’s delegation responded that they were allowing partial shipment on case-to-case basis. The software and procedure for partial shipment was in place and would be operational in one month to address the hardships faced by Afghan importers.
Shedding long-standing mistrust, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are fast coming closer to streamlining bilateral trade by removing barriers that have been encouraging smuggling and discouraging formal business.
In the meeting, the Afghan side was led by Deputy Minister for Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industries Mozammil Shinwari and Pakistan’s delegation was headed by Commerce Secretary Qasim M Niaz.
Federal Ports and Shipping Minister Kamran Michael on Thursday said the new tracking system would certainly discourage stealing of containers and smuggling under the Afghan Transit Trade as it would be linked with the Customs department.
The meeting at the government level has certainly eased the old mistrust between the two sides. These meetings are the result of efforts of the private sector of both countries that have pushed the two governments to understand each other’s concerns over trade and commerce.
According to rough estimates of the Pakistan government, over $2.5 billion worth of goods are smuggled annually through the Pak-Afghan border. Private sectors of both sides are trying to further push their governments to remove the trade barriers in order to discourage smuggling and encourage legal trade.
Leading businessmen, who are active in bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan closer, say improvement in formal trade is the key to checking smuggling and creating jobs in both countries, especially war-torn Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2013.