ISLAMABAD: Ahead of the Iranian president’s visit to Pakistan, the Ministry of Commerce on Wednesday explored avenues to boost bilateral trade to $5 billion in five years after lifting of international sanctions.
In a meeting presided over by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, various proposals came under discussion to boost and diversify exports. Two visiting officials of the Iranian trade ministry also attended the meeting.
Pakistan’s exports to Iran are limited to few products as 63 per cent of the proceeds come only from rice. Exports to Iran fell to $43 million in 2014 from $182m in 2010, while imports plunged to $186m in 2014 from $884m in 2010. UN sanctions on Iran were the biggest reason behind this drop.
The collector customs Quetta informed the meeting that there was a threefold increase in revenue at Pakistan-Iran border. The representative of the State Bank reported said that there were no restrictions on trading through formal banking channels.
The commerce minister informed the Iranian officials that Pakistan was interested in holding exhibitions.
Mr Dastgir said that Pakistan wanted to diversify its export basket to Iran by exporting home appliances, light engineering products and value-added textile products.
The meeting was informed that there was a high demand for food items in Iran, and Pakistan had already secured an export order of 100 tonnes of meat.
The commerce minister said relevant authorities in the Iran’s health ministry would be persuaded to fast-track authorisation of licences to Pakistani rice mills.
Both sides have already discussed freight train operations on a regular basis. Pakistan has proposed that till freight traffic picks up, Iranian authorities may also introduce concessionary freight traffic by rail between Zahedan-Quetta section.
Pakistan has also sought a response from Iran on tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. Iran has diverted its trade towards India and Turkey in the last four years, and there is a marked increase in its bilateral trade with these two countries in recent year.
Pakistan signed a preferential trade agreement with Iran in 2006, but there have been little benefits because of high tariff on Pakistan’s exportable products.