The government of Nawaz Sharif has reportedly decided to liberalise trade with India significantly from next year and de-link it from the composite dialogue process, well informed sources told Business Recorder. Minister of State for Commerce Minister, Khurram Dastgir Khan, who is visiting India to attend SAARC Business Enclave on 14-16 January 2013, would formally announce further liberalisation of trade with India, sources added.
Indian Secretary Commerce is expected to visit Lahore shortly to finalise the list of items to be excluded from the negative list from next year.
“Pakistan will open Wagha border for its own market but not for Afghanistan. The list of importable items may be enhanced massively, ie, up to 500 from current 137 items. The Wagha gate will remain open 27/7 and the number of Indian trucks carrying Indian goods will also double,” the sources continued.
“It will be like granting half MFN status,” sources maintained.
A week ago, Dastgir had categorically stated that MFN status to India was off the table for the moment.
Pakistan had earlier expressed its inability to separate trade from all other issues that were debated within the composite dialogue forum. However, subsequent to the visit of Prime Minister’s Advisor on Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz followed by a visit by Shahbaz Sharif and Dastgir to India, the entire scenario had changed, the sources said.
The sources also said that Shahbaz Sharif, who recently met Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, discussed bilateral issues, specifically trade liberalisation.
“Pakistan has decided to adopt a staggered approach to open trade with India and the Finance Minister had committed to this in the Letter of Intent submitted to the International Monetary Fund as a prerequisite for the 6.4 billion dollar Extended Fund Facility,” the sources added.
The US, the European Union (EU), Japan, Canada and other countries have been urging Pakistan to open trade with India.
According to sources, Pakistan has to finalise a new negative list by January 1, 2014, and its notification will be issued on 17 or 18 January after a formal announcement by the Minister of State for Commerce and Textile in India. Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was $2.606.66 billion in 2012-13.
“Indian Commerce Minister Anad Sharma will claim that the work he started a couple of years ago on trade liberalisation has now started bearing fruit,” the sources maintained.
The sources said that the Pakistan’s political government intended to normalise trade relations with India during the tenure of the incumbent Indian government.
When contacted, an official told Business Recorder that there was development on trade with India. However, it is unclear whether Indian Commerce Secretary will visit Pakistan or Pakistan Commerce Secretary Qasim Niaz will visit New Delhi.
Dastgir could not be reached for his comments.
Author: Mushtaq Gumman
Source: Business Recorder