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Efforts being made to address infrastructure inadequacies on priority: Khurram.

ISLAMABAD -- Federal Minister for Commerce Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said on Thursday that under the prudent leadership, vision and guidance of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan has embarked upon strenuous efforts to address its infrastructure inadequacies as a matter of high priority.

"We believe that in order to improve regional trade ties, we need to build trade and economic corridors with our neighbors by linking our highways, sea and land ports and airport facilities", he said while addressing the 8th South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) Ministerial Council Meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan.

According to a statement received here on Thursday, he said since assuming office last June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made enhancing trade and connectivity in the region the cornerstone of his government's economic policy.

"Poor infrastructure and intra-SAARC connectivity remains a paramount issue which we need to overcome in order to ensure that the SAFTA realizes its true potential", he added.

Keeping in view the significance of Land Ports in regional connectivity, Pakistan by the end of this year would be establishing Land Ports Authority with the objective to effectively and efficiently manage and supervise Land Ports thus ensuring better facilities to exporters, importers and to facilitating trade with neighboring countries, he remarked.

Khurram Dastgir said the infrastructure facilities at Torkhum, Chaman and Wagha land ports would be further improved keeping in view their role in promotion of regional trade and investment particularly with Afghanistan and India.

"We also intend to explore the possibility of enhancing directing shipping routes to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. The possibilities of reaching out to land-linked countries of Nepal and Bhutan are also under study", he added.

The minister said trade facilitation is another area, which has gained an increasing importance in today's international trade. As members of a developing region, we all face the common problem of capacity constraints at our borders, which cause delays in Customs clearance and port procedures.

He further said that agriculture is the most important sector in terms of its contribution towards employment and income generation for the South Asian region.

"On the one hand our farming community needs due support particularly in view of growing food security fears, however, we should also need to be mindful that such measures may not create an element of trade distortion", he added.

He stressed upon reducing non-tariff barriers to trade saying that so far as discussion on NTBs/NTMs have remained inconclusive, it is high time to introduce certain timelines wherein reported NTBs/NTMs issues could be resolved amongst SAFTA countries, perhaps on the pattern of TLP negotiations.

He suggested to streamline customs procedures and more business-friendly administrative processes.

He also recommended for the establishment of the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) and signing of the Agreements on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment and the Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards would prove as significant steps to harmonize standards, procedures and certifications.

However, it is desirable that all unnecessary regulatory burdens including administrative processes are simplified, he added.

He said Pakistan supports India's proposals to establish a SAARC Development Bank and conclude currency swap agreements. These initiatives would further the cause of regional connectivity and integration.
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 25, 2014
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