ISLAMABAD: The recent visit of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani to Pakistan led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the five-year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan, which would pave the way for promoting trade between the two countries, said Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) President Atif Ikram Sheikh.
In a statement, he said both the countries had agreed to enhance annual trade up to $5 billion during the seventh Pakistan-Iran Joint Trade Commission meeting held in Tehran in April last year and expressed the hope that the cooperation plan would help to realise the goal.
He praised the landmark agreement on opening two new crossing points along the border to facilitate trade and people-to-people contact, adding, however, that despite potential, bilateral trade had remained low.
Sheikh identified non-tariff barriers in Iran, high customs duty on products of Pakistan like textiles and a complicated import process as key reasons for the low trade volume.
The ICCI president said, “Trade between Pakistan and Iran was confined to limited items as Pakistan mostly imported oil and gas and exported rice and meat,” adding there was a need to focus on diversification of trade.
He urged both countries to explore the possibility of making joint investments in agro-food processing and infrastructure, particularly in effective rail, air, road and sea links, to improve the trade relations.
He said trade through Gwadar and Chabahar ports would be beneficial for both countries, which should take measures to make it possible.
“Pakistan should develop close energy cooperation with Iran to cope with the energy crisis by importing gas and electricity,” he suggested.