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Afghanistan eyes greater participation in regional trade

in Afghan Business

Afghanistan eyes greater participation in regional trade

Afghan government officials and business leaders have advanced two plans that, once finalized, should help the country increase trade – a time-proven method, when applied effectively, for creating jobs and reducing poverty.

The country’s proposed National Export Strategy surmounted two hurdles on 27 November when it was presented to the Afghan Council of Ministers and the country’s Executive Committee of Private Sector Priorities, an essential last step prior to the final endorsement by Afghanistan’s High Economic Council.

During the 27 November meetings, which were chaired by Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, participants praised the strategy as well designed and participatory, effectively involving elements of government and private business.

The decision follows a meeting on 25 November, during which more than 70 Afghan industry leaders, small business owners, and representatives of the public sector agreed on key objectives intended to increase the country’s exports – part of a five-year plan to be included in Afghanistan’s nascent National Trade Policy.

Both the National Export Strategy and the National Trade Policy are part of Advancing Afghan Trade, a program funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

‘The strategies have been developed with the objective of increasing Afghanistan’s exports and domestic production by promoting a balanced relationship between trade integration and sustainable domestic economic development. They address key policy challenges related to trade and market access facing Afghanistan,” said Humyoon Rasaw, Afghanistan’s Minister of Commerce and Industries.

 Atiq Nusrat, Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), which participated extensively in the development of the Export Strategy and Trade Policy, said that the Export Strategy and Trade Policy ‘have been a longstanding necessity for the country…. and they will be very useful and important documents’.

The National Export Strategy sets out clear goals, includes a detailed five-year plan of action, and features a management system that will allow for improved logical teamwork and decision-making. It aims not just to expand trade, but boost the socio-economic development, increase the capacities of the country’s businesses, attract greater investment, and improve the circumstances of Afghan women and youth – all priorities established by the government.

The National Trade Policy, meanwhile, is intended to address trade challenges holistically with its main objective being the better integration of Afghan businesses in regional value chains and in the global economy. The policy recognizes that key to achieving this goal will be to improve the competitiveness of Afghanistan’s enterprises.

A key aim of the Trade Policy is a unified, coordinated approach.  Participants at the 25 November meeting agreed on policy objectives that could help  accelerate exports, including the promotion of  market access for Afghan goods and services, rationalizing the country’s tariff policy, increasing the competitiveness of Afghan products, and promoting domestic production.

The recommendations put forward by industry officials and small business owners on steps needed to make such progress will be incorporated into the final version of the policy, which must also be approved by the High Economic Council.

Rajesh Aggarwal, ITC’s Chief of Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business, said the National Trade Policy provides a ‘road map’ through which the country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industries can lead broad-based government and private sector progress.

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