KARACHI: Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PAJCCI) would take all steps to promote bilateral trade across the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan and to bring the parallel trade into documented economy; therefore it is imperative to point out smuggling prone items and to made fiscal reforms to encourage genuine businessmen and deter miscreants which would help increase in GDP and tax collection.

This was stated by Muhammad Zubair Motiwala, President, PAJCCI & former President, KCCI at an Interactive session with D. Richard Rasmussen, Economic Officer of the US Consulate General at PAJCCI Secretariat in Karachi.

Fahad Zaidi, Economic Specialist of US Consulate General Office Karachi, A. Q. Khalil, Director, PAJCCI & former President, KCCI, Junaid Esmail Makda, Director PAJCCI & former Vice President, KCCI, Abdul Basit and Qazi Zahid Hussain, Director PAJCCI & former Managing Committee Members, KCCI were also present.

Motiwala informed that he visited official seminars and conferences with PAJCCI Directors to various countries including Tajikistan to promote export and to gain market access for Pakistan in CIS countries thorough Afghanistan. He said that restoration of confidence in the mind-sets of businessmen of Afghanistan is vital since they have been through such hostile environment of war.

Motiwala deliberated that we also have to make in-house reforms like improving road/railway networks, cut taxes, enhance contacts with business community across the border and to improve Customs clearance time and scanning ratio of transit trade goods.

US Economic Officer appreciated initiative of PAJCCI for holding such forum to resolve transit trade issues. Motiwala said that Pakistan is the largest trade Partner of Afghanistan and we can do a lot to improve the socio-economic and living conditions of Pakistan through increase in legitimate trade. He said that the concept of PAJCCI is to approach all mediums including the representatives from Afghan Consulate, Ministry of Commerce, relevant custom officials, clearing agents, bonded carriers and stakeholders to resolve any potential limitations that can obstruct bilateral trade among Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the said meeting, Junaid Makda elaborated upon the initiatives of PAJCCI and its role in Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority. He further highlighted PAJCCI performance in a span of three years and the implementation progress of 50 Articles which were signed and agreed upon in the APTTCA meetings by all stakeholders. Makda said the PAJCCI has conducted various meetings & conferences across the border to promote investment, seminars for enhancement of stakeholders’ confidence across the border between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to eliminate non-tariff barriers.

A Q Khalil informed about his presence in Afghanistan and at Chaman Border to resolve transit trade issues and to implement core decisions as agreed upon in APTTCA meeting in the presence of PAJCCI directors from both Chapters, Customs officials and commercial counselors which would be critical to help resolving day-to-day trade issues.

He said that strengthening of banking channel and IT automation in Afghanistan could increase the trade and promote documented economy. A Q Khalil expressed his views that now is the golden chance that during the current tenure of Ashraf Ghani trade ties could be better than ever. He said that we should capitalize on the initiatives offered by Afghan President in his meeting with PAJCCI office bearers. He further stressed that Pakistan’s tariff is too high and should be rationalize to eliminate smuggling between the two countries.

Qazi Zahid informed that currently importers are facing problems due to excessive scanning and disputes in partial insurance claims of cargo containers.

Abdul Basit informed that various major household commodities are being smuggled in the guise of transit trade including tyres, black tea, major electronics items including TV, DVD players, blades & FMCG goods. As a result, majority of legitimate businessmen who wants to import those goods by paying all duties are forced to discontinue import.

He said that it must be stopped since it is discouraging licenced manufacturers of those goods and their presence in Pakistan is at risk.

Junaid Makda emphasized strongly on the significance of establishing infrastructure for medical, law enforcement, banking channel, bourse (Stock Exchange) and educational institutions for the general public of Afghanistan under private public partnership. He said that under PAJCCI’s umbrella we are hopeful to eliminate issues of smuggling and undocumented economy.

Motiwala emphasized that its only possible through fiscal reforms like Customs Duty and direct / indirect tax reduction on selected smuggling prone items that we could decrease difference between legitimate trade and informal trade. He said that the Government should focus on to increase the cost of doing business for persons engaged in import of non-duty paid goods.

Delegates from US Consulate inquired about potential for US companies to do business in Afghanistan with their Pakistani counterparts and potential challenges including law and order. Speaking at a meeting during their visit to PAJCCI office, they praised the efforts made by PAJCCI to enhance formal trade and documented economy between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Motiwala reiterated that we have to adopt long term strategy to boost the economy of Afghanistan and make it self-sufficient by exploring minerals / natural resources, improvement in railway networks and increase in exports. He also said that through the platform of PAJCCI we could strive hard and look forward to double the trade targets by FY 2016.