Pakistan wants to increase its exports worth $5 billion to Afghanistan in the next three years. The target is not an ambitious one at all. But given the complexities involved in bilateral ties, the security situation in Afghanistan and the lack of inadequate infrastructure, the true potential of bilateral trade between the two sides never materialised. Many traders expected that the bilateral exchange between Pakistan and Afghanistan would rise to $5 billion in 2015. But for several reasons, mainly the tense relationship between the two countries, the overall volume of trade declined in subsequent years.

However, the prospects for increasing the volume of bilateral trade and Pakistan’s exports have increased manifold after the two-day Pak-Afghan Trade and Investment Forum that took place last month. The trade forum in Islamabad was a rare development in which the two sides adopted more than 140 recommendations for enhancing commercial activities. The overall environment is conducive for increasing business.

Therefore, the government must decide and outline which commodities will be sold and in what amounts. Identifying the high demand products should not be a problem. A few meetings with Pakistani traders can provide the officials with the required information. What is essential for the authorities is to engage the Pakistani traders and seek their recommendations. All such information about products’ demand and hurdles that our businessmen confront in accessing the Afghan markets will provide our policymakers with a better picture of the Afghan economy and bes selling practices.

The government must devise a thorough and target-oriented strategy to achieve the set goals, and the officials need to focus on bilateral trade the most. Bringing in policies that can guarantee ease of doing business will prove instrumental in growing the bilateral trade. Moreover, the authorities need to work on the informal exchange of goods and bring such commodities in the mainstream for greater state revenue generation.