India, Pakistan focus on implementing trade deal

November 14th, 2011 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) Building upon a “constructive” meeting between their leaders in the Maldives last week, senior officials of India and Pakistan Monday held talks to firm up timelines for complete normalization of trade ties, with Islamabad urging New Delhi to have “faith” in the ongoing process of removing barriers.

“Our agenda has been clearly laid out for us in terms of preparing specific timelines for the complete normalisation of our trade relationship and implementation of committed SAFTA obligations,” Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said at the sixth round of talks on commercial and economic cooperation between India and Pakistan.

Khullar said trade ministers have mandated the officials to lay down “specific timelines for normalisation of all trade relationships, dismantling of all non-tariff barriers and full implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) obligations”.

Armed with “political backing and mandate”, Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood stressed that his government was committed to complete normalisation of trade relations with India.

“We have to fully normalise our relationship and you cannot fully normalise the trade relationship without invoking the MFN principle (and) so we will be working on that,” Mahmood told reporters after reaching New Delhi Saturday.

“I want to assure you that please have trust and faith in the process (normalisation of trade). Times have changed. The world is coming closer,” Mahmood said as he began the two-day talks with his Indian counterpart.

The meeting of the commerce secretaries takes place barely days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani met at a resort in the Maldives and decided to open a new chapter in bilateral ties, of which trade normalisation is an important part.

The two leaders sought to move beyond the MFN status and agreed to work towards a preferential trade agreement that will give a big boost to economic ties between the two countries.

The Pakistani cabinet decided Nov 2 to grant India most favoured nation (MFN) status, 15 years after India granted Pakistan a similar status.

Commerce ministers of India and Pakistan recently set a target to increase bilateral trade to $6 billion.

“The cabinet not only gave its full approval but also mandated the commerce ministry to achieve complete normalisation of trade with India,” the Pakistani commerce secretary said.

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