Trilateral trade talks postponed due to protest

January 19, 2013 - 5:21:35 am

ISLAMABAD: Tahirul Qadri’s sit-in has forced the government of Pakistan to postpone a two-day meeting of commerce ministers of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad from yesterday, the third time talks have been put off, say officials of the three countries.

“Pakistan has now proposed new dates of February 10-11 for the trilateral meeting,” said an Afghan official in Islamabad.

An Iranian embassy source  confirmed the postponement.

The meeting will take place in the backdrop of a trilateral summit held in Islamabad in February last year where President Asif Ali Zardari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked their commerce ministers to prioritise cooperation for the sake of socio-economic development in the region.

Commerce ministers of the three countries will outline steps for enhancing economic cooperation, a critical step for the three neighbouring countries aimed at empowering their economies,  officials say.

Pakistan’s commerce and foreign ministries have formally informed Afghan and Iranian governments about the postponement of the meeting, said the Afghan official, requesting anonymity.

“The foreign ministry told us that the trilateral meeting has been delayed due to unavoidable circumstances,” he said.

However, he said, the commerce ministry cited the long march as the reason for putting off talks.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have underscored the need to increase trade with the help of facilitation measures, including preferential tariff and free trade arrangements as well as barter trade. 

The first trilateral talks have been postponed for the third time in nearly four months.

Earlier, the ministers were scheduled to meet in Islamabad in October and November last year,

But the meeting could not take place because of pressing engagements of Pakistan’s commerce minister, sources said.

Afghan Commerce Minister Dr Anwarul Haq Ahadi and Iranian Trade Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari will take part in the deliberations next month.

The ministers will discuss possibilities of increasing trade volume and how to facilitate traders and remove bottlenecks in the way of commerce.

They will also review proposals for expanding transit trade and encouraging private sector investment.

The ministers of the three countries will also review measures to enhance connectivity by promoting cooperation in projects related to infrastructure, roads, railways, transportation and communications.