PAJCCI raised concerns of the business fraternity across the border at the 6th APTCCA Meeting

ISLAMABAD: The 6th meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) was held on February, 14-15, 2016 in Islamabad. The meeting was jointly inaugurated by Mr. Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan and Mr. Mozammil Shinwari, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Commerce & Industries, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Both the co-chairs of APTTCA highlighted the significance of bilateral trade and transit trade and reiterated the resolve of the leadership of the two countries to enhance the bilateral trade to USD five billion and to further facilitate the transit trade.

PAJCCI represented the concerns of the private sector from across the border under the leadership of Zubair Motiwala and Khan Jan Alokozay. Both sides deliberated on several transit and bilateral matters of mutual concern. They provided stakeholders’ feedback with reference to several implementation issues under APTTA which is hampering not only the transit trade but also affecting the bilateral relations. Motiwala raised issues faced by Pakistani businesses pertinent to trademark and IPR, multiple visa problems to the Pakistani firms for their professional staff, engineers, consultants, etc., the need for appropriate banking channels, missing trade leads from Afghanistan and resolution of several execution related transit matters to establish confidence building measures across the border. He also raised the dire need of tariff rationalization which would put unscrupulous elements on hold and would significantly benefit the national exchequer.

After taking inputs from the private sector the meeting progressed as per agenda items. It was agreed that in accordance with Article 50 of APTTA, the provisions of the present Agreement shall be revised and amended appropriately with a view to further facilitating the transit trade. Both sides agreed in principle that the provisions of TIR Convention – to which both Pakistan and Afghanistan are signatories, will be adopted in APTTA to the extent possible. In this connection Afghanistan will share a draft text of amended APTTA with Pakistan by 15th March, 2016 which would be deliberated in the 7th APTTCA Meeting to be hosted by Afghanistan in the last week of March, 2016.

A joint committee comprising of representatives from the Ministry of Transportation – Afghanistan and Ministries of Communications and Railways – Pakistan, Customs and Ministries of Commerce from both sides and members of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber shall be constituted to discuss the issues relating to visas, road permits and guarantees for the implementation of the TIR system in both countries and to address future issues in this regard. The recommendations of the committee shall be sent to the focal points of the APTTCA for consideration. The first meeting of the committee will be held in the second week of March 2016 in Karachi.

Both sides decided to organize a pilot run of Afghan trucks from Torkham and Chaman up to Waghah carrying Afghan exports to India and Pakistani trucks from Torkham and Chaman carrying Pakistani exports to Sher Khan Bandar (Tajikistan’s border). The Afghan trucks will be allowed to carry Pakistani exports to Afghanistan on their return journey. Similarly, Pakistani trucks will be allowed to carry Tajik and Central Asian export cargo on their return journey to Pakistan.

For the movements of trucks in the territory of two countries, Afghan side proposed for finalizing the bilateral transport agreement. Pakistan side agreed to provide the draft agreement through diplomatic channels within one month.

Afghan side agreed to issue WeBOC user IDs for non-commercial importers of Afghanistan through its Ministry of Commerce and Industries. Pakistan Customs also handed over the list of non-commercial importers to Afghan Customs.

Pakistani side agreed to consider Afghanistan’s proposal to waive guarantee requirements for items not prone to diversion and to abolish the current negative list for Afghan Transit Trade.

Afghanistan side agreed to address the issue of pendency of T-1 Certificates on priority basis. In this regard, the Afghan side agreed to deploy more staff and resources and hold regular meetings with Pakistan Customs to review its progress. It was also agreed that hard copies of the T-1 Certificates uploaded online in the WeBOC system by Afghan Customs shall not be required by Pakistan Customs.

The Afghan side’s request for change in destination of transit cargo from Torkham to Chaman and vice versa, filed by the Afghan traders was agreed to by Pakistan Customs.

PAJCCI emphasized that both sides shall organize awareness workshops on customs procedures and systems for both private and public sectors in their respective countries. Directorate of Transit Trade established their plan to do so and welcomed proposal of PAJCCI to utilize their platform for the said purpose.

For transit through railways, Pakistan Railways informed that work is in progress to operationalize Azakhel Railway Dry port – Peshawar, to be completed by December 2016. It was agreed that in the meantime FBR shall consider the request of Pakistan Railways to allow pilot run at Peshawar Cantt station for trans-shipment of Afghan transit goods. Also Pakistan side shall examine the Afghan proposal for allowing containerized Afghan exports transit through Railways.

PAJCCI leadership also ensured to provide relevant stakeholders’ feedback to Ministries of Commerce from both sides, highlighting desired amendments in APTTA sought by the private sector across the border.

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