Imposition of duties, NTBs: Hundreds of trucks stuck up at check points

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has indicated withdrawal of Regulatory Duty (RD) on imports from Afghanistan if Kabul stops insisting on access to India through the Wagah border under the proposed revision of transit trade agreement, The News has learnt.

With the imposition of Regulatory Duty and placing of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), hundreds of containers carryingbetel nut (Chalia), fresh fruit, dry fruit and other items have been stuck up at Karachi, Chaman, Torkham and Taftan border of Iran.

Now the importers are demanding an amendment to the Statutory Regulatory Order (SROs) related to overall import regime by extending Afghan-specific conditions. However, the government seems reluctant to grant incentivized treatment to Afghanistan because Kabul has linked access up to India thus Delhi specific conditions are unacceptable to Pakistan for revising the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

Pakistan and Afghanistan had signed APTTA in 2010 with the help of US and other western countries for five years and this agreement carried a condition that if any party invoked then the APTTA agreement would be revised. Now Kabul wants to get access to India through the Wagha border for finalising APTTA but Pakistan has refused to accept this demand.

“We are ready to sit together with Afghanistan for resolving our bilateral trade issues if they stop insisting demands related to any third party or country. Kabul has unilaterally cancelled scheduled talks recently but we are ready to engage with them in order to resolve our bilateral issues,” Secretary Commerce Younas Dagha said while talking to The News on Thursday.

He said importers were demanding special treatment from Afghanistan and Kabul should also respond in the same manner. Earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had agreed in principle to withdraw RD on import of fruit and other items from Afghanistan but its implementation was linked with the consent of Ministry of Commerce.

The Foreign Office, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other stakeholders supported the idea of withdrawal of RD on Afghanistan in presence of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. However, the Ministry of Commerce argued that the RD was imposed on different items from all countries and if Kabul wanted specific incentives then they should also reciprocate in the same manner.

In the aftermath of imposition of RD as well non-tariff barriers, around 100 to 200 containers carrying betel nut are stuck up at the Karachi port while dozens of containers/trucks stand parked at the Chaman border carrying millions of rupees imports.

Many of them had even reached Quetta after paying duty and taxes but the quarantine authorities refused to grant No Objection Certificate (NOC) which is pre-requisite for clearing of containers possessing imported apples, dry fruit and other items from Afghanistan and Iran.

The importers belonging to Chaman Chamber of Commerce want the withdrawal of RD on Afghanistan. Haji Fateh Mohammad Bianzai, an importer from Balochistan, told The News on Thursday that he had told the Ministry of Commerce that he had imported apples from Iran and paid duty/taxes worth Rs0.7 million but the Customs authorities had not yet released his consignment. “I have to pay Rs10,000 per day demurrage and my consignment has been stuck for last 38 days,” he added.