In a positive development, Pakistan mulls Free Trade Agreement with the CAR states
Pakistan has proposed for Transit Trade Agreements (TTAs) between the member countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) leading to the Regional Free Trade Agreement (RFTA) to expand trade between them.
The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, participated in the virtual 19th Ministerial Conference of the CAREC, and the ministers and senior representatives of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan also took part in it. ------------------------------
Khusro Bakhtyar highlighted the significance of regional cooperation like through CAREC for Pakistan in achieving the shared goals of sustainable development and economic growth. He also reiterated the importance of regional connectivity through road networks, railways, aviation, and ports in unleashing the trade and tourism potential of the region.
While endorsing the framework, he emphasized that by setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) targets with active monitoring and annual reporting, the members could effectively monitor the progress leading to the implementation of CAREC’s Vision 2030.
The minister also remarked that tourism is a part of the National Development Policy of the Government of Pakistan and that the sector contains immense untapped potential. He suggested the development of a regional tourism corridor, the establishment of a CAREC Business Council, and the increased involvement of the private sector in promoting tourism while highlighting the incumbent government’s focus on facilitating the private sector for increased investment.
The minister also suggested the creation of an enhanced visa facilitation regime in the form of a “CAREC Sticker” for certain categories within the region. He stated that in order to expand trade between the CAREC countries, Transit Trade Agreements between member countries leading to the Regional Free Trade Agreement (RFTA) may be considered.
Minister Bakhtyar endorsed CAREC’s long-term strategies to promote regional tourism and gender mainstreaming.
Furthermore, the CAREC enables its member countries to share their views and provide input for the long-term strategic frameworks to achieve their envisaged regional cooperation goals.
Minister Bakhtyar also suggested that the CAREC should conduct comprehensive studies to identify the underlying gaps and include roadmaps on mutually beneficial topics.