Enhancing trade with Central Asia stressed

ISLAMABAD: The Central Asian Markets have a big potential of trade and investment for the country as one percent growth in trade with these states will help to enhance export earnings by half billion dollars, said Chief Executive Officer Harvest Tradings, Ahmad Jawad in a statement here on Monday.

He said that the five Central Asian Republics (CARs) including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with a combined GDP of US$ 207 billion and a population of 66 million offer a sizeable market for Pakistan’s goods, services and investment. However, much of the potential for the economic cooperation with the region has remained untapped, with Afghanistan’s war acting as a major barrier,

He said that things appear to be changing as per the recent amendments in the Pakistan-Afghan transit trade agreement. Traditionally, Pakistan has been routing its exports to CARs through Afghanistan, occasionally using air transport. This is really a big market for Pakistani fruits and need a clear strategy, a roadmap and immediate concrete steps to build and expand trade ties with them in order to get good push for the survival of our horticulture products in future, he added.

Jawad said that Pakistan can get into Central Asian markets from three sides taking Afghanistan, Iran and China routes to reach these markets.

He urged for focusing on all the three options at a time to enhance exports for sustainable economic development of the country.

He was of the view that Pakistan can also use the Iranian free trade zone of Chabahar to reach Central Asia while facilitating Iran-Central Asian business through Gwadar.

Pakistan has already been exporting cereals, frozen fish, fruits and vegetables, medicines, surgical instruments, leather products, carpets, textile fabrics, knitted garments, ceramics, kitchen, bathroom fittings, furniture and confectionery to Central Asian States, he added.

It has been importing cotton and agricultural machinery from there and by 2010 CARs combined imports stood above US$ 50 million, he added.

He emphasized that moves to expand trade volumes with Central Asian states must be supplemented by more frequent people-to-people contacts, trade shows and established banking channels to enhance export earnings upto half a billion dollars.

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