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Transit trade via Land routes

Islamabad: International agreement has opened doors for transit trade for Pakistan.

The agreement was signed in December in the Indonesian city of Bali under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is an open opportunity for all countries to provide similar transit for promoting regional trade.

This agreement can be implemented by July this year, which is an opening for Pakistan and India, and would not be able to prevent traders from using their land route for sending products to other countries.

The responsibilities will be including infrastructure at the border or maintaining highways, according to the agreement, but this can be an additional burden on the country’s resources.

But Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan insists that the agreement will be beneficial to Pakistan because it will ensure transit facilities for Pakistani goods through India to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

“We will also get market access to neighboring countries.”

Indian land is very important for traders to export and import goods to and from countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, the result of trade is still tentative that to what extent it will boost the trade.

Currently, Pakistan allows land route to Afghanistan for its exports to India, but the same facility is not available to the latter.

The agreement encourages to enhance the infrastructure such as lanes, berths and similar for traffic in transit.

A customs official said massive resources were required to build infrastructure at Wagah, Torkham and Chaman.

He said it was not clear to what extent the agreement would secure Pakistan’s interest vis-a-vis the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.

Trade experts suggest that the new agreement should be open for discussion before it’s confirmed by Pakistan.

The government has set up a steering committee, headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to spearhead the development. Five federal ministers and seven secretaries will be its members.

The ratification of the agreement carries three categories of commitments binding member countries to implement it.

“We are working on our category A. commitments,” a customs official told Dawn. They will be finalised in a couple of months, mostly involving procedural changes in the law, for implementation from July 1.An official of the National Highway Authority said that the existing road networks might not support heavy traffic of transit goods, especially from Wagah to Peshawar.

And the agreement does not allow a member country to impose a tax on transit goods for rehabilitation of damaged roads.

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