ISLAMABAD: Commerce secretary level talks between India and Pakistan would be held on January 15-16 in New Delhi to put trade ties back on track between the two countries. India has agreed on talks titled “meeting for review of previous round of setting of fresh timelines” without any precondition.
“During commerce secretary level talks, Pakistan will give commitment on facilitation of Indian goods at Wagha through enhancement of working hours, number of trucks and containerisation,” the sources added. Pakistani leaders expect that India will reciprocate by reducing Safta negative list by 30 percent at the end of two days Commerce Secretary level talks.
However, India has refused to lessen Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) on the plea that its laws are for all countries and not Pakistan specific. Elimination of bilateral negative list is not on agenda for the time being and the commerce ministry is conveying to the horrified sectors such as auto, agriculture and pharmaceutical that there will be no change in import policy on these items.
Sources revealed that the commerce ministry has also requested Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also Federal Minister for Commerce and Textile, to take into confidence Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Food Security Research, Ministry of Industries and Production and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on trade relations with India.
“We hope the Prime Minister will convene an inter-ministerial meeting on trade with India to remove concerns of other stakeholders especially Army,” the sources maintained. Commerce Ministry is of the view that the meeting is necessary in the context of the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi last month and Minister for State for Commerce and Textile, Engineer Khurram Dastgir’s visit to New Delhi on 17-18 to attend 5th SAARC Business Conclave.
Commerce Ministry is of the view that there is no harm in facilitation to Indian goods at Wagha border in lieu of 30 percent reduction in SAARC sensitive list. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already agreed with IMF that trade relations with India will be normalised. A recent Letter of Intent (LoI) signed by both the Finance Minister and Governor State Bank of Pakistan says: “We remain committed to promoting trade with regional countries, especially under various regional trade arrangements.”