In what could lead to delay in taking giant step towards removing trade barriers and enhance economic engagement between Pakistan and India, Pakistan on Monday said that it would not be possible to announce the pruned ‘negative list' by February-end deadline as some more work needed to be done on the issue.

Pakistan's Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim said some more ground work needed to be done and the commerce secretaries from both sides would hold extensive parleys to sort out the issues that had been hampering progress on reaching an agreement. “We will be studying in detail all the issues. I cannot give you another deadline but we will certainly make efforts to sort out the issues as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Fahim said that a lot of groundwork had also been done to agree on the issue of putting in place a liberal visa regime and granting multiple entry visas to businessmen. “We will be taking a decision on this matter very soon,” he added.

Stating that granting of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) to India had been taken, in principle, by the Pakistan Government, Mr. Fahim refused to set a deadline for formally issuing a notification in this regard but asserted that a lot of progress had been made in that direction. The Pakistan Trade Minister said it was the desire of Pakistan and its people that not only trade but people to people exchange should also increase in the coming times.

It is estimated officially that a pruned negative list of trade items between India and Pakistan can increase their bilateral trade to around $10 billion in the next five years. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Mr. Fahim also took part in the closing ceremony of the first ever ‘India Show' in Lahore. The show has been organised by industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India and the Trade Authority of Pakitan.

The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries stood at nearly $2.718 billion last year. India can now export only 1,946 items to Pakistan from the 8,000 tradable goods between the two countries. A negative list includes items which cannot be traded legally. Once the negative list came into effect, it would also reduce the illegal border trade between the two countries. Mr. Sharma said he would like to finalise the details of a multiple entry visa regime at the earliest. “Both the governments have talked on the issue. The drafts have been exchanged. We are in favour of an early conclusion of singing of an agreement for a multiple entry visa regime to facilitate the movement of business leaders of India and Pakistan.”

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