Conf. Seeks To Boost Trade Through Afghanistan
UN-BACKED CONFERENCE SEEKS TO BOOST REGIONAL TRADE THROUGH AFGHANISTAN
New York, May 12 2004 12:00PM
For more than two decades Afghanistan’s war-torn borders were an obstacle to trade from South to Central Asia, but a three-day United Nation-backed conference is now seeking to exploit the new opportunities in the region to boost economic cooperation, trade and transit.
“Our intention is to explore new opportunities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation,” the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Resident Representative in Kyrgyzstan, Jerzy Skuratowicz, told 150 delegates from eight countries at yesterday’s opening session in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. “It is not only Afghanistan that can benefit from this discussion. It is an important event for each and every country here.”
The conference for “Afghanistan’s Regional Economic Cooperation: Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan” is aimed at helping Afghanistan’s re-entry into the regional economy by mapping out new opportunities for trade and investment and considering actions to regularize trade and transit and harmonize customs procedures.
“Our politics is the politics of poverty reduction and economic cooperation,” Afghanistan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani said. “We must focus on ways to make the entire region competitive because the advantages are immense.”
Afghanistan already has the lowest tariffs in the region, simplified customs rules, and liberal investment laws to encourage private and public investment.
“Pakistan considers Afghanistan not a landlocked country but a land-linking country,” said Tariq Ikram, Pakistan’s Minister for State and Chairman of the Export Promotion Bureau. “We appreciate the wide ranging policy reforms introduced by the Afghanistan Government.”
Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, told the opening session: “The world paid a price for ignoring Afghanistan. We wish that price won’t have to be paid again.