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Hope soars for MFN status from Pak
Pak Commerce Minister likely to make announcement next week
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
India is hopeful that Pakistan would grant it most favoured nation (MFN) status when its Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim arrives here later this month for talks on promotion of economic and commercial relations as part of the resumed dialogue process between the two countries. India had granted Pakistan MFN status way back in 1996.

Fahim is expected to arrive on September 26 and hold talks with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on September 28-29. He is also scheduled to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet some other leaders and officials.

The Commerce Ministerís visit marks elevation of the dialogue process between the two countries to the ministerial level. The dialogue, suspended by India in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was resumed this February after a hiatus of over two years.

Sources said the two ministers would discuss issues like removal of trade barriers and reducing the number of items on the negative list of products that the two countries donít wish to trade in. At the last meeting of Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New Delhi in July, the neighbour had announced measures to promote cross-border trade.

Under the changed environment when the two countries are talking of promoting people-to-people contact and enhancing economic ties, New Delhi believes Pakistan would not delay granting it the MFN status and fulfilling its obligations under the WTO regime.

Chambers of commerce of the two countries have also favoured expanding commercial relations. The Confederation of Indian Industry recently stated that it was an appropriate time for Pakistan to accord the MFN status to India.

Meanwhile, India has asked Islamabad to prepare the negative list of items, which it does not want to import from India. Pakistan maintains a Ďpositive listí of items which are allowed to be imported from India.

India-Pakistan trade was estimated at $1.85 billion in 2009-10. Of this, Indian exports were to the tune of $1.7 billion.

It is estimated that unofficial trade between the two countries through the Gulf route could be much more than the official trade.

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