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Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Pakistan trade team targets Kabul
People walk past the bombed buildings of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.
Afghanistan's shattered economy needs outside help
Pakistan is to send a trade team to Afghanistan, as part of its strategy to help rebuild its war-torn neighbour.

An official Pakistani news report said that a 20-member business delegation will leave for Kabul on 25 August.

The aim of the trip is to boost exports and explore opportunities for reconstruction.

Led by Pakistani minister of state, Tariq Ikram, the team will focus on the private sector and examine how to increase Pakistani exports to Afghanistan.

"We are going to explore opportunities in the fields of construction, food, pharmaceuticals, grain, telecoms and furniture," Mr Ikram told the state run Associated Press of Pakistan.

"I will also meet donor agencies there, besides looking for ways to eliminate hurdles [to trade].

Lucrative trade routes

Land-locked Afghanistan has historically straddled major trade routes, both between East and West, and between North and South.

But its trading with Pakistan has been characterised by large-scale smuggling and recently hampered by wild currency fluctuations.

Afghan Minister Hedayat Amin-Arsala has pledged to regain the trust of trading partners and to regain former trade routes, with the private sector being designated as the main engine of development and growth.

In June, Pakistan and Iran, vowed to help their neighbour get back on its feet economically at a conference in Tehran.

The idea of Iran and Pakistan working together to help Afghanistan towards stability first arose during a visit by the Iranian foreign minister to Islamabad before the emergence of the interim administration in Kabul.

Recently, a joint commission between all three countries has been set up to clear the way for much greater trade and economic co-operation, stimulating development in Afghanistan.

See also:

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15 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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