Pakistan suffers setback as trade with Afghanistan declines

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Islamabad [Pakistan], May 11 (ANI): Pakistan's exports to Afghanistan have declined in the current fiscal year, which is depriving the former country of a major market for its products and dwindling trade with its neighbour.
Pakistan's exports to Afghanistan fell 5.5 per cent from USD 790 million to USD 746.3 million during the first nine months of the current fiscal year, reported Dawn citing the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
According to businessmen, the declining trend is tantamount to squandering a great opportunity, which is costing businesses and the country greatly. The issues to Pakistan-Afghanistan trade are suffering from non-tariff barriers, apathetic bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and volatile geopolitics.
Pakistan's annual exports to Afghanistan have tumbled from USD 2 billion a couple of years ago to USD 700 million, Engineer Manzoor Elahi, senior president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), told Dawn.
Elahi said that Afghanistan is now turning away from the Pakistani market as the main source, turning to India, Iran and its Central Asian neighbours for its trade needs. As a result, exports of cement and iron products from Pakistan have been considerably reduced.
"Iran is unable to trade with other countries due to American sanctions. But in the case of Afghanistan, it is not deterred by any restrictions...Pakistan used to export up to 50,000 tonnes of cement and 100,000 iron bars until a couple of years back, but not anymore," he said.
He also highlighted the lack of understanding and urgency in the officialdom to fast-track the resolution of trade issues. There was less enthusiasm for fully utilising the potential of Pak-Afghan trade, he opined.
Meanwhile, SSCI President Sherbaz Bilour that India has captured the market and that Pakistan's ghee and oil makers that used to export to Afghanistan have also suffered greatly.
"In some cases, our products are not even competitive anymore due to price hikes in the country," Bilour said.
Besides a lack of required facilities, he said conflicting domains of many government organisations were also making matters worse for businesses, Dawn reported.
Israr Ahmed Shinwari, a spokesperson for the Muttahida Transport Association, said that the transport business was mostly in the hands of people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the loss of business from Afghanistan was ultimately their loss. (ANI)