ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided that it will refuse to sign the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Preferential Trade Agreement in the absence of Iran. Turkey had previously expressed its reservations in the delay Iran has taken to submit its offer list, according to officials. Pakistan has insisted that any agreement must contain the three founding members of ECO, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.
Officials added that Pakistan insists on increasing pressure on Iran to submit its offer list and reach a consensus on the agreement at the next ECO conference. All countries apart from Iran have submitted their offer lists and the agreement might be in jeopardy if Iran fails to turn in its list, said sources.
The three-day ECO cooperative conference, ECO inter-ministerial conference and the ECO summit is scheduled to start on December 20 in Turkey. Officials from the ministry of commerce have said that the Pakistani delegation will include Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister for Commerce Amin Fahim. President Asif Zardari will lead the delegation at the ECO summit.
Sources within the Federal Board of Revenue have informed that the draft agreement includes 2,664 items that have been given trade concessions between 20 and 100 per cent across member states. Sources added that a draft of the agreement was supposed to have been drawn up at the last meeting of the ECO in Tehran.
The draft containing the rules and regulations pertaining to the trade agreement is expected to be finalised in this meeting if Pakistan can successfully convince Iran to present its offer list in the upcoming meeting. The ECO countries include Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Input from Agencies