Afghan Leader Invites Iranian Businesses to Invest
Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani on Monday urged Iranian private sector to invest in Afghanistan, in a meeting with the chairman of Iran's chamber of commerce, industry, mine and agriculture, Gholam-Hossein Shafei in Tehran, IRNA reported.
Ashraf Ghani called on Iranian businesses to contribute to development of processing industries in Afghanistan in a bid to help the country reduce export of raw materials, adding that Afghanistan welcomes presence of Iranian investors in all fields including agriculture, mining, banking and transit.
He also welcomed the decision to establish a safe transit line between Iran and Afghanistan through the Port of Chabahar in southeast Iran, adding that the transit line would play a vital role in boosting Afghanistan's trade with the world.
> Priority Areas for Cooperation
Shafei, for his part, said the Afghan president's visit will lead to opening new avenues for trade and economic cooperation between the two neighboring countries.
"Afghanistan's economic growth, boosting production, infrastructural development, attracting foreign investment and expanding bilateral and multilateral collaboration" were mentioned by Shafei as the priority areas for cooperation between Tehran and Kabul, IRNA reported.
"Relations with Afghanistan are highly important as Iran is seeking to expand political and economic alliance with neighboring and Muslim-majority countries," Shafei said, underlining the cultural, religious and ethnic proximities between the two countries.
The official further emphasized that investing in industrial production and development of basic trade infrastructure would lead to sustainable economic relations, which would in turn help the governments create more employment opportunities, "something that Afghanistan needs today."
"Arriving at multilateral trade agreements with other countries in the region" was another objective which, according to Shafei, traders from both Iran and Afghanistan could pursue. For this purpose, he called on private enterprise in both countries to prepare and implement guidelines for collaboration.
> Joint Chamber of Commerce
Referring to the establishment of Iran-Afghanistan joint chamber of commerce as a "turning point" in economic relations between the two countries, Shafei noted that the joint chamber currently has branches in three Iranian cities bordering Afghanistan. He urged Afghan officials to form a joint chamber of commerce in Afghanistan to facilitate implementation of development projects.
The idea of reopening Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce was first proposed on the sidelines of Iran’s exclusive trade exhibition in Kabul in February, which was then followed by an official visit of an Afghan trade delegation to Tehran. Chairman of Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, Mahmoud Siadat had announced in March that Afghanistan had agreed to reopen the chamber’s office, 13 years after it ceased operation.
Shafei also called for improving the quality of customs and border protection services and easing border procedures in order to facilitate trade activities for traders and business owners.
Iran has vast borders with Afghanistan from the east. Annual trade exchange between the two countries currently stands at about $3 billion, with trade balance strongly in favor of Iran. Oil products, cement, construction material, carpets, home appliances, and detergents are some of the main products exported to Afghanistan, while nuts, carpets, agricultural products as well as handicrafts are imported from Afghanistan.
In his first visit to Iran after being elected as the president in September 2014, Ashraf Ghani arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit at the head of a business delegation on Sunday.
Iran is host to a large population of Afghan refugees who fled wars in Afghanistan since the April 1978 Saur Revolution in Kabul. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 950,000 registered Afghan citizens living in Iran. However, Iran's Ministry of Interior estimates that the total number of Afghans in Iran is around 3 million.
In the latest measure to protect the Afghan immigrants, the managing director of the Bureau for Aliens & Foreign Immigrants (BAFIA), Ahmad Mohammadifar on Sunday announced that Iran will provide health coverage for legal Afghan migrants in 14 provinces.