Pakistan has reinitiated a move to get Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and Unilateral Market Access with the Russian Federation and five Central Asian Republics (CARs) to benefit from the land route transit facility available under the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

Sources in the commerce ministry said that the draft PTA has been forwarded to the Uzbek authorities through diplomatic channels for consideration, while talks with the Russian Federation too have been initiated. `Pakistan has also offered to help upgrade the customs regime and extend support for up-gradation of relevant departments of these countries as per the modern requirements,` an official of the commerce ministry said.

The Russian Federation has started consulting its Customs Union Partners for granting concessions to Pakistan.The move for a PTA between Pakistan and Russia and including the Central Asian region in some sort of trade agreement was initiated ahead of the proposed visit of Russian PM Putin to Pakistan in September.

However, as the visit did not materialize, the plan too could not move ahead and the commerce ministry has re-initiated the process of developing trade ties with the region.

Pakistan and Russia had initiated the process of entering into a Preferential Trade Agreement, while Russian Federation was negotiating to get membership of the World Trade Organisation The Russian Federation had intimated to Pakistan that it would consider a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan after the PTA is materialized. Pakistan has also forwarded a list of 170 products for unilateral trade concessions.

Exports to the Russian Federation and the Central Asian Republics are consid-ered cost-effective and with minimum distance from Pakistan through land route. Any breakthrough in concluding PTAs could prove a success, said an official.

Similarly, five Central Asian Republics, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, are being approached to enter into Preferential Trade Agreement. However, the commerce ministry official said that Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have intimated that due to their commitments with other trading partners and trading blocks, they could not sign individual PTAs; therefore, focus of Pakistan is to propose PTA with Uzbekistan.

The commerce ministry in a recent summary to the ECC said that the Central Asian Republics (CARs) are potential market for Pakistani products as these are regularly importing many products and commodities, like sugar, wheat flour and other packaged products from Pakistan, through Afghanistan.

`Many such products reach the destination through the informal trade arrangements,` the commerce ministry had said, indicating smuggling of goods to theregion as per their demand there. Trade concessions under proposed PTAs would enable Pakistani exporters to compete with other countries and create a new permanent export market in the region.

`Being immediate neighbour of Central Asian Republics, there is vastexport potential of Pakistani products into Russia too,` the commerce ministry had claimed in the summary to the ECC.

After the legal backing of PTA, Pakistani products would be cheaper in Russia and the CARs and Pakistani exporters can take advantage of the transit facility available under the APTTA.

Dated: 11-11-2012