Pak-Afghan JEC concludes with vows to boost cooperation

Pak-Afghan JEC concludes with vows to boost cooperation
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KABUL: The ninth session of Pakistan- Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) concluded here on Monday with vows to enhance bilateral economic cooperation to promote peace and stability in the two countries. 
The co-chairpersons of the session Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar and Afghan Finance Minister, Dr Omar Zakhilwal signed the agreed minutes of the session. Acknowledging the progress made on the Central Asia- South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA) 1000 and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project, the two countries keenly looked forward to the implementation of these projects.
Realizing the importance of Kunar Hydro Power project, both the countries agreed to work together to further expand cooperation in this project. The meeting also agreed that all issues raised by the Afghan side on the implementation of Afghan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) would be considered by Pakistan and the results will be reviewed in the relevant customs experts meeting scheduled by end of March 2014.
Pakistan side agreed to speed up the pace of work on various development projects being undertaken in Afghanistan through its financial assistance. The Afghan Government, on its part, agreed to expedite provision of electricity to the projects. Pakistan side shared a new draft for the Avoidance of Double Taxation treaty. Both sides agreed to further discuss issues involving “Avoidance of Double Taxation” treaty at the earliest. The Afghan side welcomed the extension of scholarship scheme for students from 2000 scholarships to 3000.
A number of proposals for possible cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the areas of petroleum & natural Resources, industries & production, and agriculture & livestock were also discussed during the meeting. Addressing the concluding session, Minister Zakhilwal said: “I firmly believe that improved economic cooperation and interdependency between Afghanistan and Pakistan not only helps bringing prosperity to our two nations, but it can also promote mutual trust between the two countries. Joint projects such as CASA can play an important role in bringing peace and stability into the region and beyond.” 
Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar called for enhancing bilateral trade, extending the transit trade to Tajikistan, early completion of ongoing projects funded by Pakistan, visa facilitation for Pakistani businessmen and labour. During his stay in Afghanistan, Senator Mohammad lshaq Dar, Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization accompanied by Minister Zakhilwal also called on Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan. 
During the two-day JEC session, detailed meetings were held between the experts of the two sides on a number of issues, especially focusing on trade, commerce and industry cooperation in communication and connectivity, energy, agriculture and livestock and education. The status of various development projects being undertaken in Afghanistan with the financial assistance of Pakistan was also reviewed in detail. 
Despite financial constraints faced by Pakistan, Prime Minister of Pakistan generously enhanced the overall size of portfolio of development projects in Afghanistan from $ 385 million to $ 500 million as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Afghanistan during his last visit to Kabul in November 2013. In addition to attending the JEC session at Kabul, both the ministers also visited major projects constructed by Pakistan under its bilateral assistance program including recommencement of works on Torkham - Jalalabad additional carriageway, Nishtar Kidney Centre in Jalalabad and the Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty of Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif. 

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