Iran and Pakistan will start direct talks for a free trade deal in September, according to a senior Iranian trade official who says an agreement may be possible until the end of the Iranian calendar year in March 2024.
“If we can agree on free trade with this country this (calendar) year, it will be a major accomplishment,” Hadi Talebian, who leads South Asia Department at Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO), said on Tuesday.
Talebian said that a free trade deal with Pakistan will have its own complications because the balance of trade between the two countries is largely in Iran’s favor.
He said, however, that such a deal will contain “special arrangements” and will be much beneficial to Iran than a barter mechanism proposed by some businesses and government officials in Iran and Pakistan.
Iran is currently in a preferential trade agreement with Pakistan under which the two countries have reduced tariffs on exports and imports of certain commodities.
The two countries have also defined a strategy to launch six major border markets to allow free trade between people living along their frontiers.
Earlier in June, Pakistan issued an order allowing barter trade with Iran, Russia and Afghanistan for certain goods, including petroleum and natural gas.
TPO figures show annual trade between Iran and Pakistan reached nearly $2.4 billion in year to March of which some 1.8 billion were Iran’s exports to Pakistan.
The Iranian government agency expects bilateral trade with Pakistan to increase by up to 20% in the year to March 2025.