ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are very close to heading for a deal on complete trade normalisation after New Delhi accepted Islamabad’s demand for removal textile products from its negative list.
According to details, both Pakistan and India have reached a consensus on how to move forward on liberalisation of bilateral trade and remove all obstacles from this way. Under the new scenario, both Pakistan and India are likely to simultaneously announce Non-Discriminatory Market Access on Reciprocal Basis (NDMARB) status for each other in the not-too-distant-future.
It is to be noted that NDMARB was coined after the term Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) became controversial and the new term will grant India the same benefits as envisaged under MFN.
On the other hand, a special government panel chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already decided to ask the federal cabinet to approve a fresh roadmap for granting NDMARB to India. A summary will be moved to the cabinet shortly and it is expected that both sides will notify changes by March 31.
It is expected that Pakistan will abolish the negative list of 1,209 items which cannot be imported from India under the NDMARB agreement. Pakistan, in 2012, took a giant step by replacing the positive list of 1,946 items, which could be imported from India, with the negative list.
On the other hand, despite its claims that it had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, New Delhi failed to provide Pakistan with free market access so far as there are restrictions on investment from and in Pakistan.
Some of the items currently protected under the negative list would subsequently be protected under the Sensitive List maintained under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). There are two sector i.e automobiles and pharmaceuticals which will be protected under the SAFTA Sensitive List, neutralising two lobbies against NDMARB status to India.
Meanwhile, India has accepted Pakistan’s demand to exclude 160 items – mainly textile products – from its Pakistan-specific Sensitive List and will also bring down the list from 614 items to 100 items.
As a first step towards NDMARB, Pakistan will allow India to import all goods through Wagah-Attari border. The border would also remain open 24 hours a day, he added. According to him, the containerised movement of goods across the border will replace current labour-intensive practices.