The European Union announced a new initiative, called Afghanistan: Trade for Economic Growth (ATEG), which will focus on strengthening the country’s trade capacities and helping it become a vibrant regional economic hub.
“The EU is determined to ensure that Afghanistan can benefit from the opportunities arising from greater participation in international trade and enhanced regional economic integration. This project will help improve national capacities to design and implement a coherent export strategy and it will help develop and implement a regulatory framework that will guide the reform agenda of the Afghan Government to improve trade links and cooperation,” said EU’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Excellency Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin.
Following the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, the three-year project will be implemented by the International Trade Center (ITC) with collaboration from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries at a total cost of USD 4.7mn.
The ATEG will focus on trade for economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction. It will work on implementing trade policies and strategies by building the capacity of policy makers and ensuring private-sector participation in the process. The initiative will also provide training to government officers on trade policy and trade negotiations.
The launch of the project follows a detailed needs-assessment mission carried out by ITC in 2015. Over the life of the project ITC will focus on developing and implementing a national export strategy for the Government of Afghanistan with a special focus on agricultural exports and provide training to government officers on trade policy and trade negotiations. ITC will also support the establishment of a National Trade Facilitation Committee, building the capacity of SMEs to comply with cross-border procedures and requirements, and improving mechanisms needed to ensure a constructive public-private dialogue.
The intervention is recognition of ongoing efforts by the Afghan government to use trade as driver of economic growth, regional cooperation and stability. Afghanistan acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in July 2016 and has placed trade and regional economic cooperation at the heart of its development strategy. Its first action after acceding to the WTO was to ratify the body’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
“International trade is a crucial tool to ensure economic growth and job creation. Trade is a means for Afghanistan’s to move away from dependency on aid and on a path towards a future built on engagement with other countries that will help bring stability to the country and to the region,” said Humayoon Rasaw, Afghanistan’s Minister of Commerce and Industries.
To ensure sustainability, local ownership and long-term impact of the project, ITC will be working with a range of partners, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academia and civil-society organizations based in Afghanistan.
“Situated at heart of the old Silk Road, Afghanistan is a country shaped by trade. It is a country with huge untapped resources and, by putting in place the right policies and mechanisms, we aim to build a better and more stable Afghanistan that once again finds it place in the global trading system,” ITC Executive Director Ms. Arancha González.