Pakistan, Iran chalk out five-year plan with $5 billion trade target

This comes less than two years after the two countries agreed in late 2021 to take measures to expand annual trade exchanges to $5 billion by 2023.


Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari holds meeting with Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian. PHOTO: Radio Pakistan/DAWN

August 4, 2023

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan and Iran chalked out a five-year trade cooperation plan on Thursday, setting a target of $5 billion for bilateral trade.

This comes less than two years after the two countries agreed in late 2021 to take measures to expand annual trade exchanges to $5bn by 2023, the current year.

The new plan has been devised while Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is on a two-day visit to Pakistan, having reached Islamabad last night at Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s invitation.

This is his first bilateral trip to Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference alongside him in Islamabad today, Bilawal said the five-year trade cooperation plan was aimed at removing impediments in bilateral trade, finalising a free trade agreement and establishing institutional linkages between the private sectors of both countries.

“I am confident that the steps we are taking today will chart the course for a long-term durable economic partnership between our two countries in the months and years ahead,” he said.

For his part, Abdollahian said both countries were committed to increasing the bilateral trade to $5bn and had agreed to set up a special economic free trade region along the common border points.

The press conference was held after the two foreign ministers led delegation-level talks at the Foreign Office in Islamabad earlier today.

Bilawal told the media that the two sides had agreed to prioritise the operationalisation of the five remaining border markets by the end of this year.

Moreover, he said Pakistan and Iran had decided to repatriate all the sentenced prisoners as per the provisions of existing agreements between the two countries.

An agreement was also reached to set fishermen from each other countries free and waive off any fine imposed by authorities of both countries for the release of their vessels, he added.

Bilawal said the two sides would exchange the lists of prisoners to put into practice this understanding expeditiously.

He further stated that the “grave human rights situation” in India-occupied Kashmir also came under discussion during the meeting and thanked the Iranian leadership for its “firm and consistent support to the legitimate cause” of the people of the valley.

The foreign minister said both sides had also agreed to continue their active engagement on Afghanistan with the view to advance peace and stability there and promote the wellbeing and prosperity of Afghan brothers and sisters.

Furthermore, an agreement was also reached to continue cooperation for countering Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred, he said.

“There has been an unfortunate series of Islamophobic acts and events across Europe, and not just isolated events but repeated and premeditated provocations. In my view, these are not only hate speech but would endanger provoking violence,” he added.

Speaking after him, Abdollahian emphasised the need for enhanced bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and tourism.

He gave the assurance that the two countries would take immediate steps for the release of fishermen and their vessels.

The Iranian foreign minister also emphasised the completion of the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, saying that the project would “definitely serve the national interests of the two countries”.

Similar to Bilawal, he, too, called for supporting the people of Afghanistan, highlighting that any situation in Afghanistan would have an impact in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran.

“Therefore, under any circumstances, it is a religious and humanitarian responsibility to extend support to the people of Afghanistan,” he stressed.

Abdollahian also condemned the recent terrorist attack in Bajaur and extended sympathies to the bereaved families, people of Pakistan in general and the government of Pakistan.

Later, the two foreign ministers saw the signing of memoranda of understanding between Pakistan and Iran in various fields.

Earlier today, Bilawal welcomed his Iranian counterpart at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

The two leaders held a “tete-e-tete” at the ministry and also planted a Pine tree sapling on the premises of the office.

PM Shehbaz meets Abdollahian

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also met Abdollahian and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen relations with Iran in diverse fields, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported.

The report said the premier underscored the need to focus on enhancing cooperation in the economic domain, pointing out that Economic Cooperation Organisation was “uniquely placed” to play this role.

He expressed “deep concern” at the rise in the incidents of “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred” and underlined Pakistan’s firm resolve to work with other Muslim countries, including Iran, in “articulating a unified view against such despicable acts aimed at sowing disharmony and divisions within communities and societies”.

PM Shehbaz also spoke about the inauguration of the Mand-Pishin border market held on May 18, stressing that initiatives aimed at the economic uplift of border areas were a tangible manifestation of the shared priority to collectively work for the betterment of people of the two countries.

He said Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s policy of “neighbourhood first” fully aligned with his vision of a secure, prosperous and interconnected region.

The PM further stressed the importance for Pakistan and Iran of “leveraging their unique geographical location to promote mutually reinforcing goals of regional peace and prosperity, through greater trade and enhanced regional connectivity”.

Separately, the Iranian foreign minister met National Assembly (NA) Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at parliament House.

He was leading a delegation that discussed various regional and international issues and further enhancement of political and economic ties between Iran and Pakistan with special emphasis on promoting parliamentary cooperation, said a statement posted on the NA Twitter.

Abdollahian will also call on Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to discuss parliamentary linkages between the two countries, according to an FO statement issued prior to Abdollahian’s arrival.

“FM Abdollahian’s visit will be an opportunity for the two sides to discuss the entire range of bilateral ties with particular focus on regional connectivity, energy, and economic and investment ties between Pakistan and Iran,” it added.

It further stated that Abdollahian’s arrival was preceded by the arrival of a high-ranking delegation, including Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic affairs and senior officials from the Ministries of Trade, Roads and Urban Development, Investment, Agriculture and Energy for preparatory meetings.

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