Pakistan commerce minister in India September-end, MFN likely

September 5th, 2011 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 5 (IANS) India and Pakistan are set to scale up bilateral trade and business when Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim comes here later this month on an important visit during which Islamabad could grant New Delhi the long-overdue Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status.

Fahim’s visit to India is likely to take place Sep 26-30, said reliable sources. He will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma on the removal of trade barriers and pruning down of a negative list of products that the two countries don’t want to trade in.

Pakistan, sources said, has indicated its willingness to double the number of goods it imports from India, but it’s not clear whether it will go all the way with the MFN status.

Building upon successful talks between their foreign ministers in July, India and Pakistan are now poised to expand their bilateral trade and liberalise the visa regime, specially for businessmen.

Issues relating to liberalization of the trade regime were discussed last month during the talks between joint secretaries (commerce) of the two countries last month.

Pakistan, in principle, has agreed to move from “positive list” to “negative list” trade regime with India as required under the conventions of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

“Pakistan has also recognised that grant of MFN status to India would help in expanding the bilateral trade relations,” Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya M. Scindia told the Rajya Sabha last month in reply to a question.

Pakistan maintains a “positive list” of 1,945 items which are allowed to be imported from India. Under SAFTA, Pakistan operates a sensitive list (negative list) of 1,169 items.

New Delhi has asked Islamabad to prepare the negative list of items that it does not want to import from India.

The MFN status for India could be a key step in expanding trade ties between the two countries whose relations have been marred by a host of issues, including terrorism and Kashmir.

The MFN status would benefit a range of Indian products, including textiles, cotton, vegetables, coffee, tea and spices and can take bilateral trade up to $10 billion and help cut down on informal trade that is going on between the two countries.

Pakistan, on its part, is expecting India to remove non-tariff barriers that restrict imports from that country.

India-Pakistan trade was estimated to be $1.85 billion in 2009-10. Indian exports accounted for $1.78 billion.

In April-December 2010, bilateral trade is estimated to have gone up to over $3 billion with India’s exports at $1.7 billion.

A study by Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations estimates that, given reciprocal concessions, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan could go up to $14.3 billion, with India exporting about $11 billion-worth and importing goods worth $3 billion from Pakistan.

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