Trade and commerce ministers of Pakistan and India are likely to hold parleys here on enhancing economic engagement and removal of non-tariff barriers, including a liberal visa regime, to give a fillip to trade relations between the two neighbours.
Although no official business has been notified, Commerce Ministry officials here said Pakistan's Commerce and Industry Minister Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim and his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma will hold talks on various aspects of trade-related issues, following the notification of the negative list by Pakistan last month.
“Trade is set to take from the sea and railway route but it will take time for things to move along the surface transport front. Discussions are on to open up more trade through the land route, including a new one in Rajasthan,'' a senior official said.
Out of the 8,000-odd items notified under the newly-released negative list, only 150-odd items could be traded through trucks across the border, something that needed to be urgently expanded.
Bilateral trade stood at $2.75 billion last year and has the potential to touch the $10-billion mark in the next four years, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
Mr. Sharma will host a dinner in honour of Mr. Fahim and the visiting Pakistan business delegation on April 12. Similarly, Mr. Fahim is expected to host a dinner on April 13 for his Indian counterpart. Both countries have discussed recently the issue of trade in electricity and petroleum products. In fact, India has offered power-starved Pakistan 5,000 MW of electricity and an expert group had met last month in Lahore to work out the modalities for such an exchange in the future.
Similarly, the expert group on petroleum had met last month in India. Pakistan had sought from India a supply of petrol. India reciprocated instantly to the Pakistan request. It has left it to the officials to work out modalities.
Interestingly, Pakistan has already notified transportation of petrochemical products through the land route on trucks some months ago. However, the Indian oil marketing companies have been guarded in their approach to supply the much-needed raw material to its neighbour.