Even as Pakistan has agreed to actively look into the issue of granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, New Delhi has assured Islamabad that it would favourably consider its demand for entering into a Preferrential Trade Agreement (PTA).

The issue came up for discussion during the closed door talks between the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries during the two-day dialogue held in Islamabad. Pakistan wanted a PTA with India to be done as soon as possible that would promote bilateral trade by extending tariff concessions on products of export interest to both countries. However, the Indian side informed the Pakistan’s negotiating team that it did not have the authority to take decision on such an important issue and the matter will have to be first deliberated by the Prime Minister’s Trade and Economic Relations Committee before any final decision is taken. At the same time, India told Pakistan that it should first fulfil the obligations under SAFTA and then only talk of new arrangements.

However, officials in the Commerce and Industry Minister said the matter will come up for discussion during the meeting of the Prime Minister’s Trade and Economic Relations Committee which is meeting here Friday evening. ``We are certainly open to having such a agreement in place as it would give a positive fillip to exchange of businesses and trade between the two countries,’’ a senior Commerce Ministry official said.

On tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTBs), it was decide to set up a Working Group specifically dedicated to address and resolve clearly identified sector specific barriers to trade. The first meeting of the Working group would be held by September 2011. It was also agreed between the two countries to have a group of experts from both sides to examine the feasibility, scope and modalities of electricity trading. The group would also look into the issues of suitable sites for transmission lines, funding mechanisms and other related issues. The composition of the group would be finalised by June 2011 and first meeting would be held by October this year.

Both the sides also decided to work out how they could expand trade in all types of petroleum products. A group of experts from both sides would be set up for this purpose before June 15. It would deliberate on the issue of building cross border pipelines and use of road/rail route, including the Munabao-Khokrapar route. The first meeting of the group would be held before September this year.

In a significant development, the two sides also agreed to put in place a new initiative to promote bilateral trade in Bt. Cotton seeds. This would help Pakistan’s farmers and its textile industry by significantly raising cotton yields and ensuring better cotton security.

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