Pak-Afghan trade relations becoming tense

ISLAMABAD (November 24 2002) : Trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have become tense as Kabul has refused to welcome Pakistan's Commerce Minister, sources told Business Recorder.

“We extended two invitations to Pakistan Commerce Minister, asking him to visit Kabul, which have not been given weightage. Now it will be a shame for us if we welcome him here,” sources quoted the Afghan government as saying in a letter to Pakistan a few days earlier.

Sources said the visit of Commerce Minister was being arranged on the directives of President Pervez Musharraf, who was told that lack of interaction with Afghan government on trade affairs had put Pakistan in difficult position.

According to these sources, Pakistan's embassy in Kabul had also conveyed to the Commerce Ministry that trade dispute with Afghanistan should be resolved as early as possible as any delay would leave an open field for India and Iran, which were making efforts to increase their market share.

Pakistan Commercial Counsellor in Afghanistan, S M Tahir, had asked the Commerce Ministry that the list of goods in Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA) should be revised in accordance with requirements of Afghan people, who are starting new life after Taliban ouster.

Afghan Commerce Minister took up the issue of ATTA with his outgoing counterpart and Chairman of Export Promotion Bureau during his visit to Kabul, but did not get any positive response which made him furious.

A few days back, Tahir, who was in Islamabad, told this scribe that he had conveyed Kabul's reservations to the Commerce Ministry and asked it to settle the matter, otherwise Pakistan would face hardship in trade.

Kabul, sources said, was of the view that Pakistan's traders were free to bring their goods to Afghan markets, while Afghan businessmen were facing a lot of problems in exporting their goods to Pakistan.

Afghan government has also expressed serious concern over customs duty @ 45 percent on fresh fruit, slapped by Pakistan and considered it a tactic to discourage Afghan fruits, or block their import, which would have negative effect on trade relations between the two countries, sources said.

Pakistan's embassy fears that Afghan government would impose customs duty on Pakistan's fresh fruit at similar percentage as imposed by Pakistan which could hurt exports.

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