Bilateral trade can touch $10 b in 3 years if issues like non-tariff barriers are addressed

Asserting that bilateral trade between India and Pakistan could be a game changer for the region, a business delegation of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Monday sought a liberal visa regime besides addressing issues pertaining to non-tariff barriers.

At a function organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry here, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said bilateral trade could touch $10 billion in the next three years if issues like non-tariff barriers and visa problems were addressed on a priority basis. “Within the next 2-3 years, we can easily enhance the trade volume to $8-10 billion,'' Mr. Sheikh said. In 2010-11, bilateral trade stood at $2.70 billion.

Mr. Sheikh, leading a 22-member business delegation, is on a six-day visit to India.

He said the Pakistani business persons faced many problems including mobile connectivity besides difficulties in getting visas. He pointed out that as soon as Pakistan businessmen entered into the Indian territory, their mobiles phones were jammed and stop working. “We need to buy Indian SIM cards for maintaining mobile connectivity,'' he added.

Pakistan has been complaining that its products face NTBs in India. New Delhi, on the other hand, has been asking Islamabad to meet its South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) obligations by normalising bilateral trade.

Mr. Sheikh said the Indian government should also liberalise its visa regime for Pakistani businessmen. He said there were problems even with a SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) system of visa stickers, a mechanism meant for facilitating visas for the business people. India and Pakistan have recently been making efforts to improve their bilateral trade.

Assuring the delegation of a quick follow-up with the Indian government, FICCI Secretary General Rajiv Kumar said India had no Pakistan-specific trade barriers.

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