India, Pakistan agree to encourage greater trade through new Integrated Checkpost

Bringing cheer to the business community and people on both sides of the border and giving a major fillip to bilateral trade, India and Pakistan have agreed to draw a road map for allowing a whole spectrum of items for trade through the land route — Attari-Wagah. The products include pharmaceuticals and related products, cement, livestock, newsprint, petrochemicals, fabric and raw jute. At present, 150-odd items are allowed to be exported to Pakistan through the land route and by truck. After the pruning of the negative list by Pakistan last month, the number of items India could export has gone up to nearly 7,800.

In a joint statement issued on Saturday, after Friday's talks between Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Pakistan Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, both sides agreed to take all further action to encourage greater trade through the newly inaugurated Integrated Checkpost (ICP). “It was agreed that Pakistan will take necessary steps to remove extant restrictions on items permitted to be imported through the land route. The aim is to permit all items not in the Negative List to be traded across the land border at Attari-Wagah. The Pakistan side has stated that through a Cabinet decision in 2009, the flow of items is linked to provision of adequate infrastructure at the checkpost and it would take the case to the Cabinet on the basis of the additional capacity created through the new ICP.” This could possibly pave way for allowing cement import from Pakistan, and export of pharma products, an expanded list of fruits and vegetables, livestock, petrochemicals, petroleum products, raw jute and fabrics to and from Pakistan.

Adequate infrastructure

Noting that the Commerce Secretaries would meet in Islamabad in May, the statement said the new arrangements at the ICP would streamline movement of trucks across the border and significantly enhance the flow of trade through the land route. It was also noted that Pakistan had already built sufficient infrastructure at Wagah and was clearing all current cargo traffic.

The new infrastructure would enable a substantial increase in the movement of goods traffic across the border. Also, it would now be possible to conduct trade over longer hours during any working day. “The Pakistan side stated that through a Cabinet decision Ministers expressed the wish that discussions may continue at the official level for possibilities of opening more land customs stations between both countries. This would enhance greater economic engagement between business communities of both sides and deepen bilateral cooperation for mutual prosperity of their people,” the joint statement said.

Transition process

Both sides have expressed satisfaction that the transition process for complete normalisation of trading in goods and services, including investments, has started. There has been a substantial increase in the list of commodities permitted to be imported from India. As per the Pakistan Government's March 20 order, a Negative List of 1209 tariff lines has been announced. In accordance with the Pakistan Cabinet decision, complete phasing out of the Negative List by December 2012 is subject to further negotiations. Both sides have agreed that the modalities would be discussed at the next meeting of the Commerce Secretaries.

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