First Indo-Pak joint venture takes off

Pakistan has indicated that it could explore the possibility of having a free trade agreement (FTA) with India on the lines of the one it signed with Indonesia recently.

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Commerce and Privatisation, Engineer Dastgir Khurram Khan told a group of visiting Indian journalists that the Nawaz Sharif Government had been strongly pitching for peace with India.

Probably for the first time the general elections in Pakistan were not fought on anti-India sentiment or propaganda, he asserted. “We should not let this golden opportunity slip away. Both sides should work to promote economic and trade activity, and we could, after a period of consolidation, explore the possibility of having an FTA with India. We recently signed a preferential trade agreement with Indonesia.

“I see no reason why the same cannot be concluded with our neighbour India. We should not allow third countries to tap the huge trade potential that both India and Pakistan have, and move forward politically and economically for the benefit of people of both nations,” he said.

Mr. Khan said investors from India and Pakistan would not make any big commitments until they were assured of backing and stability from the political establishment of their respective countries.

“We are happy to note that visas are being given in a more liberal way to businessmen and on long-term. But we would need to fast track this process, and also show progress on issuing visas to senior citizens of Pakistan as was decided under the new visa regime. This will give a fillip to people-to-people exchange and thereby increased economic engagement,’’ he said.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Muhammad Haroon Agar, said India needed to work on the timelines taken for customs clearances and also setting up laboratories for testing facilities on the border as such bottlenecks hindered exports and imports. “We have issues on duty on textiles exported from Pakistan to India and stakeholders are already in talks to resolve this,” he added.

Meanwhile, the first joint venture between India and Pakistan, registered in Pakistan, took off last week, and was formally launched here late on Thursday.

Two companies from India and Pakistan have joined hands to form Interwood Company for export of readymade furniture for homes, commercial and office space.

“This is the first India-Pakistan registered joint venture in India after India allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) by Pakistan companies and nationals. We hope many more such ventures take place in the future.

“We plan to open 25 retail showrooms in India by the end of 2014,’’ Ali Manzoor, CEO of Interwood, said here.