July 15, 2021
Pakistan is scheduled to sign a significant transit trade agreement with Uzbekistan that will allow Tashkent to utilize Pakistani seaports for much of its trade and bypass Iran, local media reported on Wednesday.
The agreement will be signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Tashkent to attend the Pakistan-Uzbekistan “Silk Route Reconnect” Business Forum on July 15-16.
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country which heavily relies on Iran’s Bandar Abbas port for international business and commerce.
According to The Express Tribune, the quantum of its entire trade through sea-lanes will now be shifted to Pakistani harbors since they offer the shortest possible route to the Central Asian country and promise to bring down logistical costs.
“The agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan has been negotiated and finalized, covering trade and transit of goods by road and rail along with customs procedures,” Tribune said.
Pakistani officials made the offer to the Uzbek authorities during the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov to Islamabad last September.
The agreement will be a major stride toward Pakistan’s vision for greater regional connectivity and help the country tap into an over $90 billion Central Asian export market.
Earlier this month, the prime minister’s adviser on commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood told Arab News in an exclusive interview that the two countries would “sign a number of agreements, including transit and preferential trade agreements” during the occasion.
He added the agreements would help his country diversify its export market outside of Europe and the United States.
“Pakistani exporters have been concentrating on Europe, UK, America, Japan and Korea but there is a much bigger world so one of our policies is to look at the Central Asia republics and that is why we have selected this
‘Silk Route Reconnect’ theme and we have selected Uzbekistan,” Dawood said. “Uzbekistan is the only country that is connected with all Central Asian republics and they have very good infrastructure.”
The Express Tribune reported that the transit trade agreement would require the trade to take place through “pre-determined routes and only utilize specified ports and border crossings.”
It will also allow Pakistani and Uzbek truck drivers to cover the whole distance and their drivers’ licenses will be recognized by both governments.