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Trade talks between Pak-India Commerce secretaries in progress

Trade talks between Pak-India Commerce secretaries in progress

ISLAMABAD: Talks between Indian Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao and his Pakistani counterpart Qasim M. Niaz are continuing to sort out trade-related issues ahead of a meeting of their commerce ministers.

The meeting came ahead of the ministerial-level talks between Pakistan’s Minister of State for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan and Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Dastgir is scheduled to visit India from today to attend a Saarc Business Leaders conclave.

According to the Indian media, Pakistan had agreed to give India MFN status by December 2012 but it missed that deadline because of political considerations involved. Local reports say Pakistan’s auto, pharma and agri lobbies are also opposed to greater access to India in these sectors.

India gave Pakistan MFN status back in 1996. It is likely that Islamabad may extend the same benefits to India as available under MFN. One of the options is to call it “non-discriminatory trade access.” Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited New Delhi and met Mr Anand Sharma to start the talks.

“We will convey to them that the roadmap is all made up and now we need to start triggering it off. Their Punjab chief minister had last month given a high degree of clarity that the new government of Pakistan is highly committed to full normalisation of trade relations,” an Indian commerce department official has said.

The two sides had agreed to a roadmap on September 2012, which said India would bring down its sensitive list under SAFTA to 100 tariff lines from 614 by April 2013, after Pakistan granted India MFN status by December 2012.

As per expectations, Pakistan would remove restrictions on trade through land route (Attari-Wagah Integrated Check-Post). It would also eliminate its balance 1,209 products from its current negative list of items importable from India. Pakistan would also reduce SAFTA sensitive list for India to 100 tariff lines in a phased manner over five years.