Afghan President seeks to enhance trade to $5 billion by 2017

President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Friday stressed the need for further strengthening trade and investment relations with Pakistan for the benefit of the people of the two brotherly countries. Addressing a business forum here, the Afghan President said the two countries have tremendous opportunities for bilateral trade and investment in various sectors, adding that his country would take benefit from the opportunities in Pakistan.

The forum was also addressed, among others, by Minister for Finance Senator Ishaq Dar and Minister for Commerce EEngineer Khurram Dastgir Khan Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, members of the business community and other senior officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan were also present on the occasion.

The Afghan President said business interests of the two countries are inter-linked, adding that not only would exploitation of these opportunities help bring prosperity between the two countries, it would also benefit the entire region. Expressing his resolve to enhance bilateral trade volume, Ghani said that Pak-Afghan trade volume would be doubled from its existing volume of US $2.5 billion to $5 billion by 2017. He said mutual economic connectivity is going to be key to peace and stability in the region. “We are living in an environment of suspicions and together we can remove our suspicions,” he said, adding “let me assure you that we will bring a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.”

He also invited the Pakistani business persons to work jointly with the Afghan business persons for mutual benefits. Addressing the business community, the Afghan President said: “You are a source of prosperity in the region and we must focus on strengthening our regional trade”.

He added: “South Asia is the least economically integrated area in the world and Afghanistan and Pakistan can play a role in boosting economic activities in the region.” Ghani also stressed the need to promote energy corridor saying: “Let us focus our attention to turn Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI) into a reality as soon as possible to make the region self sufficient in energy.”

He also announced to allocate $1 million for providing scholarships to Afghan students to study business classes at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Earlier, in his address of welcome, Federal Minister for Commerce Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said that the Government of Pakistan is following the agenda of reforms for economic prosperity.

He said that Pakistan has opened up its economy for trade and investment and created an investment-friendly environment for the international investors and urged Afghan businessmen to take benefit from the opportunity. He stressed the need for establishment of Pak-Afghan joint business council in order to boost bilateral trade between the two brotherly countries.

He called for improving the supply chain framework between the two countries for bilateral trade. He said the countries should provide multiple visas to business community to enhance their mutual trade and investment. To a question, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are not only neighbouring countries but also brothers pursuing with common agenda of peace and economic prosperity of the two people.