On 21st March, the Punjab Board of investment and Trade (PBIT) in collaboration with the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry held a conference at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Lahore to discuss the prospect of increasing and improving trade relations between the two countries.
The conference was attended by many notable people, which included the Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan, Syed Abrar Hussain and the Chairman of Nestlé Pakistan, Syed Yawar Ali. The Chief Guest was the provincial Minister for Industries, Chaudhry Mohammad Shafique.
The Chairman of PAJCCI, Muhammad Zubair Motiwala gave a speech regarding the current trade situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and called upon both nations to increase trading activity. He said that “if both official and unofficial trade is calculated between Pakistan and Afghanistan, then Afghanistan ranks number 3 in the list of Pakistan’s trade partners, which is estimated at $5 billion”. He mentioned that “both countries have a total of 20 joint business ventures and there is a need for Pakistani exports of automobiles, electronics, furniture, pharmaceutical goods and warm clothing to Afghanistan”. “Similarly, Afghanistan can export cement, sugar, iron and agriculture goods to Pakistan” he added. He also suggested that in order to enhance trade relations, Pakistan should set up trading zones, free trade areas and offer tax incentives to various businessmen, along with revamping Pakistan’s visa system for businessmen. He suggested that maybe Pakistan could follow India’s Electronic-Visa system, which streamlines the process and makes visiting easy.
The Punjab Board of Investment and Trade also partnered up with PAJCCI to help streamline the various processes and facilitate investment in Pakistan. Various B2B meetings were held between businessmen from both countries. Some businesses from Afghanistan that were present included Bakhtar Islamic Bank, Azizi Group of Industries and Arman Noori Construction & Co. The Director Projects& Policy Research PBIT, Mr. Khurram Afzal Malik gave a presentation regarding the socio-economic climate of Punjab, which included various metrics and statistics regarding the province such as Pakistan being the 5th largest consumer market in the world and a very young work force and how it is a favorable location for foreign investment. He also
The CEO of PBIT, when talking to the media emphasized the importance of trade relations with Afghanistan and said that this conference is a step in the right direction towards better relations with our neighbor country.
Overall there was a good turnout at the conference and there was a large amount of interest from both sides. We can hope that more conferences like these will help ease trading and diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and soon a lasting partnership can be formed.