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    US wants Kabul to find alternative transit routes

    KABUL (PAN): The US deputy secretary of commerce and industries, concerned at Afghan traders’ problems in Pakistan, on Tuesday suggested that Afghanistan should seek alternative transit routes.

    The Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APPTA) was signed in Kabul on Oct. 28, 2010 between Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his Afghan counterpart Dr. Anwarul Haq Ahadi.

    However, the agreement is yet to be fully implemented by Pakistan, where hundreds vehicles of Afghan traders have been stopped on suspicion of carrying supplies for NATO-led soldiers.

    According to the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (AACCI), traders have suffered $500 losses due to restrictions and problems in Pakistan over the past one and half year.

    US Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Industries Francisco Sanchez told Pajhwok Afghan News he had heard from trade unions they faced numerous challenges in Pakistan.

    Calling the practice “very discouraging”, the visiting official explained he supported APTTA and hoped Pakistan would step up efforts at addressing the problem.  

    “I encourage both countries to work for promoting their bilateral interests, especially Afghanistan must seek alternative transit routes,” he said. Afghanistan could meet its transit requirements through Central Asia and the Chahbahar Port of Iran, he believed.

    Some progress had been made in Afghanistan’s economic sector over the past five years, but continuous improvement was needed to strengthen trade unions and motivate private entrepreneurs.

    “I was impressed by small and medium companies, currently operating in Kabul,” Sanchez remarked, stressing an environment that enabled the growth of small firms. He hoped the creation of such a climate would help small firms and pave the ground for foreign investment.

    The US was ready to help the landlocked country, where millions of dollars had been invested by Afghan Americans, create an investment-friendly environment. “I hope we will lay the foundation of basic investments and huge US economic bodies will invest in Afghanistan.”

    There had been a 50 percent increases in bilateral trade volume from 2009 to 2010, the deputy secretary said, promising he himself would play a role in encouraging investment in Afghanistan. Annual imports from the US amount to $250 million.

    Asked what they expected of Afghanistan in terms of sanctions against Iran, he replied: “The US cannot force changes in trade policy of another country.”

    Confident of Afghanistan’s economic reintegration with the region and the world at large, Sanchez promised the Obama administration would back such moves.

    mm/mud



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