By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, May 20 (Alliance News):Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Pakistan, Aybek Arif Usmanov on Friday said that the possibility of signing a free trade agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan cannot be ruled out.
A Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) has been signed for the promotion of bilateral liberal trade between the two countries, which has a great potential to increase bilateral trade in the future, Ambassador Aybek Arif Usmanov told Alliance News here.
The Ambassador said that a bilateral PTA and Transit Trade Agreement had been signed between Pakistan and Uzbekistan which also facilitated the movement of land trade between the two countries including trucks.
He said that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Pakistan and Uzbekistan could play a better role in promoting bilateral trade if there was a similar trilateral agreement in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
He said that after signing such an agreement, economic integration in Central Asia and South Asian countries would increase and regional trade also would increase.
He said that regional trade is needed at this time and in regional trade we have the best examples of the European Union (EU) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) where regional trade and economic connectivity is the best example.
Replying to a question he said that promotion of trade and trade connectivity between Pakistan and Uzbekistan and other Central Asian States is essential for regional trade.
Thus, according to the government policy of the Uzbek government, region to region trade will also be promoted, which will bring the countries of the region into a common trade and economic power.
The envoy said that work was underway on a railway line project between Pakistan and Uzbekistan which was being carried out by engineers and technical staff of both the countries and all the three parties including Afghanistan had agreed to implement it.
The Afghan province of Mazar-e-Sharif is already connected to Uzbekistan by railway line, he said.
He added that the railway link between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan would not only link our trade with the countries of the region but also give them access to Euro-Asian and European markets.
He also said that he would like to complete all major gas pipeline projects including the Turkmenistan Afghanistan- Pakistan and India (TAPI) for economic and trade integration of the countries of the region.
He said that for the energy needs of Pakistan, Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) should be completed, which would be able to meet the energy needs.
In response to another question, he said that the foundation of economic relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was laid by former Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.
In the past, bilateral trade was only $20 million, which has now reached $185 million in 2021.
He said that the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) has been signed between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which will increase bilateral trade.
He said that now agreements have been signed also between the provinces and cities of Pakistan and Uzbekistan on mutual cooperation.
While talking Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), annual summit of the Heads of State Council to be held in Samarkand (Uzbekistan), he said the role of Pakistan and Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is of paramount importance and is a milestone in regional and global economic integration.
Uzbekistan is at the center of Central Asian countries and Pakistan has its own geostrategic importance which can play a significant role in its economic and trade integration in the SCO, he said.
The Ambassador said that Uzbekistan, as the chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization annual summit 2022 of the SCO Heads of State Council hoisting by on September 15-16 in Samarkand.
He said that this SCO annual summit would be attended by the Heads of State and Foreign Ministers of all the member countries and economic, trade and political cooperation among the member countries would be discussed.
He said that the SCO summit would have a total of 80 sessions in which 40 sessions would be of foreign ministers in which delegations of member countries would discuss issues of mutual interest.
The Ambassador said that regional to regional cooperation would be discussed at the SCO summit which would be helpful in mutual cooperation among the member countries.
Central Asian countries also have a policy of regional cooperation which can enhance bilateral relations, he said.He said that SCO member countries have huge economic powers which can play their full role in economic and trade cooperation between the countries.
Responding to another question, he said that the SCO summit would seek new economic drivers for the promotion of economic and trade cooperation among the member countries in which technology and innovation are very important.
The envoy said that the use of information technology and modern technology in new dimensions is very important which will be discussed at the summit for its promotion.
On this occasion, he said that there is an agreement on transit trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan signed, which needs time to be implemented.In addition, rail, air and road connectivity are crucial for the development of economic relations.
He said the SCO meeting will also discuss bilateral trade cooperation and the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).