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Exports to Afghanistan drop by over a quarter in a year

By Mubarak Zeb Khan 2017-06-18
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan`s exports to Afghanistan fell by a signincant27 per centover the past one year, thanks to growing mistrust between the two countries as well as downgrade of Nato presence in the war-ravaged nation.

According to officials on Friday, the worsening law and order situation in Afghanistan over the past months wasanother factor that contributed to the decrease in exports.

Hundreds of people and security personnel have been killed in bomb blasts and gun attacks by militants in Afghanistan recently.

The deteriorating security situation has triggered an intermittent war of words between the two countries with Afghan officials holding Pakistan responsible for each such incident.

For the first time, the commerce ministry of Pakistan admitted that frequent closures of the Pak-Afghan border had also contributed to the steady decline in exports to the neighbouring country.

Another reason was the diversion of Afghan trade to Iran.

Pakistan`s exports to Afghanistan had reached an all-time high of $2.4bn in 2010-11.

It remained over $2bn annually in the subsequent two years 2011-12 and 2012-13. Since then, exports started to dwindle andhit $1.43bn in 2015-16.

In the nrst quarter of the current fiscal, exports were recorded at $362.5 million. It clearly reflects that the annualexports to Afghanistan will now be around $1bn when the figure for the 2016-17 was finalised.

Contrary to this, imports fromexports to Afghanistan will now be around $1bn when the figure for the 2016-17 was finalised.

Contrary to this, imports fromAfghanistan have witnessed a growth of 26pc as it reached $409m in 2015-16 against $323m in the previous year.

Talks on severalissues have been on the back burner for the last couple of years because of Kabul`s loss of interest in concluding a trade liberalisation regime with Pakistan.

In 2014, both sides agreed to initiate negotiation on a bilateral preferential trade agreement (PTA). Pakistan shared a draf t text of the agrement with Afghanistan.

In 2015, Afghanistan conveyed to Pakistan that it would formally respond to the draft PTA latest by January 2016.

`We have not received any response so far from Afghanistan,` a commerce ministry of ficial said.

Moreover, to encourage business-to-business interaction between the two countries, a joint business council (JBC) comprising leading businessmen from both sides was established. The first meeting of the JBC was scheduled for August 2015. When Kabul f ailed to send its response, a new date for the JBC meeting was scheduled Feb 17, 2016 in Islamabad.

According to the official, the Afghan government initially confirmed its participation in the meeting but later changed its mind. `Since then no meeting of the JBC has been planned,` the official said.

According to another official source, Pakistan has recently reminded the Afghan side to convene the 7th meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) in Kabul as had been agreed during the last meeting held in 2016.

A similar request was also sent to Afghanistan for sharing the draft text of the amended Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement as was agreed in the last meeting of APT TCA held in Islamabad last year.

According to the source, both the Afghan transit and Afghan traders have suffered heavy demurrage, detention and over stay charges owing to the closure of border.

The deadlock between Afghanistan and Pakistan was due to Kabul`s insistence that India should be included in bilateral and trilateral agreements. Kabul wanted to include India in Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Kabul, according to officials, also wants market access to India and Saarc countries through Wagha border.