Pakistan’s air connectivity crucial for regional economic integration: official

Web DeskWeb Editor

02nd Aug, 2021. 11:59 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s air links with the outside world, especially with the regional countries, are crucial for regional trade and economic integration, an official said.

Talking to APP, United Business Group (UBG) of Pakistan secretary general Zafar Bakhtawari said that promoting air, land and sea connectivity can make Pakistan a major economic and trade power at the regional level by teaming up with the regional countries, especially Central Asian Republics.

In the recent geo-economic scenario, the Gwadar Port is emerging as a major opportunity not only for the regional countries but also for the global trade, which will strengthen Pakistan’s trade links with the regional countries and also with the global trade markets.

Even a $60 billion mega project of global and regional significance such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will not only determine the future trade trends, but will also play a key role in shaping the world’s major trading markets.

In the first phase of CPEC, infrastructure and energy projects have been successfully completed, and in the future, friend countries need to be made partners in CPEC so that Pakistan’s trade and economic relations with these countries can further be strengthened, he said.

The UBG secretary general said the stages of industrial development and common currency of CPEC are currently under completion, which will lead to new ties of China-Pakistan friendship.

He also said the agriculture sector is also one of the important projects of CPEC, which will usher in a revolution in the agriculture sector in Pakistan.

Bakhtawari said that there is a potential of around $2 billion in bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which can be further enhanced by adding some new sectors.

The peace in Afghanistan is crucial for the development of Pakistan and the mutual trade relations of the countries of the region, including Central Asian economies, he said, adding that recently Pakistan and Afghanistan have revived the protocol for six-month extension of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) 2010.

“Our trade must be based on secure, open, consistent, reliable and legal movement of goods at the Afghan border along with enhanced connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs)”, he said.

Bakhtawari said during the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Transit Trade (AUPTT) was signed in Tashkent, between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, adding that Uzbekistan is a landlocked country having borders with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Under the agreement, the transit trade between Uzbekistan and Pakistan will take place along the predetermined routes and only utilising specified ports and border crossings, he said.

Uzbekistan and Pakistan are obligated to ensure that suitable infrastructure and personnel are available at the border crossings and will provide separate spaces for off-dock terminals and warehousing, the UBG official said.

Afghanistan has a transit trade agreement with Uzbekistan, while Pakistan also has a transit trade agreement with Afghanistan; therefore, the transit trade agreement with Uzbekistan can provide opportunities to the Pakistani exports to reach the potential of a $100 billion market in Central Asia.

Currently, Uzbekistan is highly dependent on the Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas, accessed through Turkmenistan.

On the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Turkey, a senior business leader stressed the need for finalising the Pak-Turkey FTA and asked for it to be signed as soon as possible.

Nine rounds of bilateral negotiations on the proposed FTA between the two sides had been held in the past in different avenues, he said, and expressed the hope that the FTA could be signed by this government.

More serious and concrete steps needed to be taken for increasing bilateral trade, which had decreased to $650 million from $1 billion/annum.

He said the Turkish government, business community and the people, in general, gave great importance and respect to Pakistan and its citizens.

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