Trade talks will have to wait for composite dialouge

India-Pakistan trade talks have “hit a snag as the composite dialogue between the two neighbours remains suspended,” Pakistani Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan said here on Friday.

Pakistan has decided not to talk about trade now but go for a larger-than-trade vision, Mr. Khan told The Hindu on being asked why Pakistan had failed to deliver on the commitment he had given in New Delhi last month to his Indian counterpart on operationalising the bilateral trade pact. The pact would automatically lead to Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) for India.

The Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, was to inaugurate the India Show in Lahore on Friday, but had to cancel his visit due to Pakistan’s failure to deliver on the bilateral trade pact.

“Trade can’t happen in a vacuum when the foreign Ministries of the two countries don’t work along,” Mr. Khan said when asked why Pakistan had failed to create an atmosphere conducive to a visit by Mr. Sharma. “Trade talks will move when the larger dialogue proceeds,” Mr. Khan said. He, however, added that Pakistan was not making this a pre-condition.

The two sides had agreed in January that by mid-February both — 24X7 trade of all goods through Wagah-Attari border and the dismantling of the negative list of 1,209 items and bringing down the sensitive list of items to 100 under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) over a period of five years — should be done by Pakistan. India has already reduced its sensitive list of items to 614 and had agreed at the bilateral talks last month to further cut it to 100 in one year’s time. At present, only 137 items can be traded through Attari-Wagah land border. If Pakistan eliminates the negative list, it would automatically lead to NDMA for India. This is in lieu of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, a term Pakistan has said it is not in a position to use with regard to India.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 2:49:53 AM |

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