Central banks of both countries examining issues relating to opening of bank branches

Seeking to speed up bilateral cooperation and enhance economic engagement, India and Pakistan have decided to fast-track the ongoing talks for trade in petroleum products and electricity. The issue of opening bank branches in each other's country would also be taken up on priority.

It was decided during the bilateral meeting between Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and the visiting Pakistan Trade Minister, Makhdom Amin Fahim, that the officials of both countries should fast-track the ongoing process. It was also noted that the Central banks of both countries were examining issues relating to opening bank branches in each other's country.

SAFTA lists

During the discussions, both sides agreed to draw a road map for further reductions in the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) sensitive lists. While reducing the SAFTA lists, both sides would appropriately consider requests received for tariff lines to be removed. Both sides welcomed these rapid developments on the business front and the business-to-business and business-to-consumer contact for promoting both commerce and people-to-people understanding. The Ministers agreed that this was a clear testimony of the business-driven demand for a rapidly expanding bilateral economic engagement.

Joint Business Council

The Ministers expressed their wish that the business visa regime needed to be liberalised at the earliest. It was noted that a formal decision on this was expected at a meeting of the Home Secretary of India and the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of Pakistan likely to he held next month. They noted that the business chambers from both sides provided great support to fast-track the growing economic engagement between the countries. It was decided that a Joint Business Council be constituted with 10 prominent business persons to be nominated by each country.

This Council shall provide an additional institutional framework for regular and sustained dialogue between the business communities. It is expected to meet at least once in six months and recommend further steps that could be taken to improve bilateral economic relations. These recommendations would be sent to the Commerce Ministries of both countries, which would use these valuable inputs for taking forward the ongoing trade dialogue.

The Joint Business Council would also strategise and implement mechanisms for deepening the business to business and trade and commerce relations.

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