Pak may soon grant MFN status to India

Pak may soon grant MFN status to India
Pakistani industry on Friday expressed hope that Islamabad would soon grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India as the formalities on the matter have already been completed.

"All the home work has been completed and formalities have been done so I think it is only the matter of time when the two governments meet and right forum is there. So I do not think that is an issue," Pakistan Co-chair for India Pakistan Joint Business Forum (IPJBF) Syed Yawar Ali said.

He was speaking with reporters after the fourth meeting of the IPJBF.

India granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996 but Pakistan is yet to reciprocate to that. Grant of status to India would help in further boosting trade between the countries.

Pakistan has decided to postpone grant of Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) status to India due to lack of consensus at home.

NDMA is a nomenclature chosen by Pakistan to avoid political ramifications at home of giving India MFN status.

Ali also said that the Pakistani business community has already asked the government to grant the status to India.

He said that after the meeting of foreign secretaries of the two governments, commerce secretaries too are also expected to deliberate on various trade related issues.

"One cannot give date but I think it will be clear after the foreign secretaries meeting," he added.
Further, he supported India's effort in protecting the interest of poor farmers in the WTO.

"We have 60 percent people who are in agriculture sector and the US and EU have only 2 percent but yet they protect them very vigorously so I would support India's WTO effort here," he said.

The IPJBF has constituted 10 task forces on sectors, including agriculture, automobiles, engineering and IT. They will submit their recommendations to their respective governments to increase bilateral trade and investment.

On banking sector, Ali said that banks of the two nations would open branches in the other country but before that there is an urgent need to formalise trade transactions.

"How the money has to flow? Today that is flowing through a difficult route so first we want to ease that first and then move towards bank branches," he said.

About auto sector, Indian-co-chair of IPJBF Sunil Kant Munjal said that the task force on the sector has made recommendations to prune negative list of Pakistani imports from India to exclude auto components.

"They are importing from other countries and they would like to import from India also. From Indian side, we would like to export raw material which Pakistani auto sector can use," Munjal said.

Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan touched USD 2.6 billion in 2012-13.

When asked about Pakistan's expectations from the Narendra Modi-government, Ali said leaders of both India and Pakistan have expressed desire to further enhance and improve economic relations.

"It is a historic opportunity because both the leaders were born after 1947, both the parties have majority in the assemblies so they are strong government. Both the leaders have desired to improve the relations. We are confident that things will start fast. Your (India's) Prime Minister has done a lot (for private sector) when he was Chief Minister," he said.

Elaborating on the cooperation in automobile sector, Sikander Mustafa Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Business Council, said that the task force on the sector is trying to identify a list of items which can be removed from the negative list so India can export those products.

"India has given a list of components that they would like to export to Pakistan and be removed from the negative list. We will review that in the next two months. We will identify those products," he added.

Ali further said that India and Pakistan should also think of negotiating free trade agreement.

"India has done lot of FTAs and bilateral agreements with neighbours. So I think the time has come when we should also start thinking about it. This is the future we are looking at," Ali said.

India has implemented such agreements with Sri Lanka.

India's main exports to Pakistan include sugar, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its imports comprise mineral fuels, among others.

Munjal said that though this forum, businesses of both the sides are trying to create a dialogue to resolve all the trade and investment related issues.

He said that the task force on banking and financial services have suggested to include insurance sector in the talks and have asked to form a group of bankers, traders and lawyers to understand each other's regulatory systems.

In 2012, Pakistan had committed itself to give the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status but missed its own deadline of December 31, owing to domestic opposition.

The neighbouring country has to abolish the negative list of 1,209 tradable items. Abolishing the negative list items that cannot be imported from India means the grant of NDMA status to India.

Bilateral trade talks have been suspended since last year following escalation in violence at the LoC.

Meanwhile Pakistan high Commission in a statement said that it wants a level-playing field for promoting and further strengthening trade ties with India.

"There is need to address concerns relating to market access, tariff and non-tariff barriers. At the same time, innovative proposals and ideas may also be explored which can help create economic inter-dependence between the two countries," Abdul Basit, High Commissioner for Pakistan, said at the fourth meeting of the PIJBF.

He said that mutual economic dependence will boost confidence amongst the business communities and make economic cooperation sustainable.

The PIJBF comprising top business leaders of the two countries, 15 from each side, was established in 2013.

He also said that the meeting between the two Prime Ministers in New Delhi on May 27 was very positive where both the leaders agreed to move forward from confrontation to cooperation.

"We should seize this rare opportunity and leave a legacy of friendship and cooperation for our future generations," he added.

Talking about a meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, which is scheduled for 25 August in Islamabad, the High Commissioner said Pakistan was looking forward to a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue process.

Further, the statement said that the Task Forces on textiles, agriculture, auto-engineering, banking and finance, energy, SMEs and connectivity and visa facilitation, which met separately, yesterday, presented their respective reports and recommendations for consideration of the Forum.

The fifth meeting of the Committee will take place in Lahore later this year.


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