Tehran, Kabul Chambers of Commerce Hold First Post-Taliban Meeting
EghtesadOnline: The first meeting between Iran and Afghanistan’s chambers of commerce after the Taliban takeover of the neighboring country was held on Wednesday in a webinar.
An agreement was signed during the meeting between Gholamhossein Shafei, president of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, and his Afghan counterpart, Tavakol Ahmadiar.
“Over the past decade, Iran has been one of the most important suppliers of goods needed by Afghanistan in various fields with an eye on economic and industrial development of Afghanistan. However, areas such as mines have been overlooked in recent years and the great potential for cooperation in this field should be considered to start new collaborations,” Shafei was also quoted as saying by ICCIMA’s news portal.
The official noted that the Iranian private sector is ready to cooperate with Afghanistan in major industrial, mineral and commercial fields from oil and gas to pharmaceutical and medical equipment, agricultural products, food and beverages, detergent and sanitary ware, and construction materials, as well as technical, engineering and tourism services.
“Afghanistan has acceptable export capacities in the Iranian markets for the export of nuts and dried fruits, agricultural products, as well as mineral products such as marble, coal and iron ore.”
The ICCIMA president called for resumption of preferential trade talks with Afghanistan, which was abandoned after the takeover of the Taliban.
The two sides agreed on the following issues:
1. Establishment of the Afghanistan-Iran Chamber of Commerce and introduction of the proposed members of this chamber by the Afghan side;
2. Establishment of investment, technical and engineering services committees;
3. Following up on the signing of a Preferential Tariff Agreement between the two sides through the relevant ministries of both countries;
4. Facilitation of the issuance of visas for economic operators who are members of the chambers of the two sides;
5. Increasing cross-border cooperation by signing cooperation agreements between Iran's border chambers in Birjand, Zahedan and Mashhad with their respective chambers in Herat, Nimruz and Farah;
6. Establishment of a mining cooperation committee;
7. Establishment of a joint committee for cooperation in the energy sector, which includes oil, gas, petrochemicals and electricity.
Iran Tops List of Exporters to Afghanistan: ACCI
According to Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment statistics, Iran is the biggest exporter to Afghanistan and exports have reached $1.5 billion this year.
Electrical appliances, raw materials for production, petroleum products and foodstuff are the main commodities exported from Iran to Afghanistan.
ACCI says that this year Afghanistan’s exports to Iran have reached $17 million, which show a 50% increase compared to last year.
“We have been exporting goods to Iran for 30 to 35 years, but still Iran does not import some important goods. Iran has put high tariffs on Afghan goods. We ask Iran to give us preferential tariffs like other countries,” said Mohammad Younes Momand, the head of ACCI.
Officials at the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment said Afghanistan’s exports to Iran are mostly dried fruits, agricultural products and coal. The officials said they are working to increase the rate of exports to Iran, TOLOnews reported.
“Iran had been one of the countries to which we export the most. 40% of exports from the southwestern provinces, which include marbles, dry fruit and agricultural products, have been exported to Iran,” said Mohammad Yunus Ghazizada, the head of Herat’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment.
Abdul Nasir Reshtia, an economist, said, “If attention is paid to the packaging and standardization of domestic products, there is no doubt that we can export more to the neighboring countries and to the world.”
Economic Ties After Taliban Takeover
Afghanistan and Iran are major trading partners since they share an extensive border region. In 2021, after the US exit from Afghanistan, the Taliban announced that it would resume fuel imports from Iran. With its trading power and mineral wealth, Iran is seen as a major factor for Afghanistan's economic recovery.
The Taliban takeover in July initially led to closure of border crossings and decline in trade.
Milak border crossing, Iran’s main trade gateway with Afghanistan, reopened on August 11.
“With the reopening of the Milak border crossing, all three of Iran's official borders with Afghanistan are open and the process of exporting Iranian goods by Afghan traders and shipping companies to this country is underway,” Rouhollah Latifi, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s spokesperson, was quoted as saying by Islamic Republic of Iran’s Customs Administration’s Telegram Channel, Gomrok News.
Milak border located in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan Province was closed from August 6 for security reasons due to the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan.
Milak is one of the major strategic junctions that connects landlocked Afghanistan to international waters through Iran.
In July, trade through two other checkpoints between Iran and Afghanistan, namely Sheikh Abu Nasr Farahi Customs (known as Mahirouod on the Iranian side) and Islam Qala border crossing (Dogharoun), came to a halt after Taliban seized control.
Latifi said in August that Mahiroud and Dogharoun border crossings have reopened and are currently active.
A total of 1.08 million tons of commodities were exported from Sistan-Baluchestan Province’s Milak and Mirjaveh border crossings during the current Iranian year’s first eight months (March 21-Nov. 21), showing a 26% rise compared with the similar period of last year.
“These consignments were carried using 46,877 trucks. The figure shows a 29% increase YOY,” Teymour Baqeri, a local official, was quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
Around 431,168 tons of goods were exported via Milak to Afghanistan and 650,086 tons through Mirjaveh to Pakistan.
“Our main exported products were liquefied gas, hydrocarbons, gasoline and fruits and vegetables,” he added.
During the same eight months, said Baqeri, more than 168,000 tons of products were imported via Mirjaveh checkpoint and a total of 399,700 tons of goods were transited through the two border crossings.
“Afghanistan was Iran's fourth largest export destination among neighboring countries and fifth among all countries in fiscal 2020-21 [ended March 20],” Iran’s former commercial attaché to Afghanistan, Mohammad Mehdi Javanmard-Qassab, has been quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to facilitate bilateral trade and strengthen economic ties, the latter's interim administration run by the Taliban announced in October.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who is also the acting deputy information and culture minister, said in a statement that a meeting was held between Afghan and Iranian officials "with the aim of strengthening economic ties and providing necessary facilities for trade issues between the two countries", Anadolu reported.
As many as 16 points were agreed upon, including an increase in working hours to facilitate the flow of goods at the Islam Qala-Dogharoun border, reviewing tariffs on goods and services, as well as discussion on issues with fuel supply.
In September, foreign media reported that Tehran resumed fuel exports to Afghanistan after weeks and months of political uncertainty.
While the two delegations agreed to hold talks on infrastructure issues, the statement added that Iran "will cooperate in the fields of health and tourism”.