ISLAMABAD/KARACHI - Government is planning to officially launch oil trade with Iran to curb petroleum products’ smuggling.

Sources said that around 20,000 litres of petrol and diesel is smuggled in from Iran every day. The economy, deprived of duty and other taxes, suffers loss as big as Rs 10 billion annually.

Reportedly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will visit Islamabad in the ongoing month.

The government is likely to bring up the matter and propose oil trade during his visit. Experts are hopeful of better Pakistan-Iran trade in light of recent alleviation of international sanctions.

Meanwhile, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Ashraf Mahmood Wathra on Tuesday said that Pakistan is fully open to Iranian banks to open their branches in the neighboring country.

In an interview with Iranian news agency IRNA, the SBP Governor said in past years Bank Melli of Iran had expressed interest for opening its branch in Pakistan.

“We will be very happy to revive that request if Bank Melli approaches the State Bank of Pakistan,” he said.

He said in past times Pakistani banks used to have braches in Iran and Habib Bank and United Bank have never closed their representative offices in Iran in worst of the times.

“I am sure Habib Bank and United Bank will be one of the first Pakistani banks to start branches in Iran after lifting of sanctions,” he said.

Wathra said that during his meeting with the Iranian Ambassador, he told him that three of Pakistani banks have already visited Iran recently and they are at a very advanced stage of collaborating with the Iranian banks to start transactions.

“Our market is very excited, our businessmen are excited, many visits have already taken place and we are looking forward to reviving centuries old trade relationship,” he said. The SBP Governor said that Asian Currency Unit has been opened between Iran and Pakistan.

He said at this point trade and business between Iran and Pakistan can be carried out in Euros, Japanese Yen, British Pound, RMB and all other currencies except US dollars because part of the US sanctions are still there.

It may be mentioned here that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will lead a high ranking economic and political delegation to Islamabad later the week on Friday and Saturday.

A big trade delegation including dozens of Iranian traders from private sector will also accompany President Rouhani to Pakistan.