M A I N   N E W S

India pitches for MFN status, Pak disappoints
Ashok Tuteja writes from Karachi

Even as Commerce Minister Anand Sharma asked Islamabad to expedite the process of granting the Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, the Pakistan Cabinet today postponed a decision on preparing a negative list of items for trade with India.

A press statement issued by the Press Information Department (PID) of Pakistan said the Cabinet considered and directed the Commerce Ministry to consult all stakeholders before the preparation and finalisation of the negative and positive lists for trade with India.

The postponement of the decision is being seen here largely in the context of current troubles of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is battling the contempt of court charges in the Supreme Court. Pakistani observers say Gilani does not want to add to his government’s troubles at this stage by making any move on ties with India which could have domestic implications.

The Cabinet’s decision came as a big disappointment to the Indian business delegation travelling to Pakistan with the Commerce Minister. Both Ficci president RV Kanoria and CII president B Muthuraman said they were disappointed that the Pakistan Cabinet could not finalise the negative list. The decision was not reflective of the opinion of the business communities in the two countries, which desired promotion of trade and economic relations, they added. Pakistan maintains a positive list of more than 1,900 items, which are allowed to be imported from India.

It has to move to a negative list that would ultimately lead to the granting of MFN status to India. New Delhi had accorded this status to Pakistan in 1996.

Trade between India and Pakistan increased from $144 million in 2001 to $2.7 billion in 2010-11 while the informal trade between the two countries is estimated to be to the tune of $10 billion.

The Pakistani Cabinet, however, approved the signing of agreements for cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters, bilateral cooperation on mutual recognition between the Pakistan Standard and the Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and on redressal of trade grievances between the two countries. The agreements are likely to be signed tomorrow in Islamabad.

On the second day of his visit to Pakistan, the Indian Commerce Minister addressed a luncheon meeting hosted by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Pakistan, he said, was bound to grant the MFN status to India under the WTO regime, regardless of the difficulties it might face. He was hopeful that Pakistan would be ready with the negative list soon.

“Let’s open a new chapter…let’s draw a road map for economic cooperation. It has happened in all regions despite conflicts and wars,’’ Sharma said. He said it has been a case of “missed opportunities” between India and Pakistan for decades. 





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