Pakistan, India plan business council, 12 trade points
Pakistan's Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmud says his country and India are working together to constitute Pak-India Joint Business Council with a view to enhance trade cooperation between the countries.
Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce on Thursday, Mahmud said that the two countries are also working actively to open 12 entry points along their mutual border including eight in Punjab and three in Sindh.
The secretary commerce also told the committee that the government is in touch with both the interior and home ministries of India to ease visa regulation and that both sides are working closely to iron out differences on the issue and the outcome of these deliberations would be announced within a week.
Both the countries are also working on the issue of opening of bank branches and use of cellular services in each others’ countries, he added.
Talking about the possible impact of opening up trade with India, the commerce secretary informed the committee that Pakistan can invoke protection laws even after ceasing of the negative list with India at the end of this calendar year if the New Delhi fails to abolish Islamabad specific-non-tariff barriers.
“We have necessary framework in place if imports from India threaten the local industry and then these laws can be invoked.”
Pakistan is already exercising these laws against friendly countries like China, Turkey and Indonesia on complaints of the local industry, he added.
The next round of Pak-India trade talks would be held soon in Pakistan as the ministry of commerce has conveyed to its Indian counterparts through their respective foreign offices, the secretary said.
The committee that met under the chairmanship of PML-N, MNA, Eng. Khurram Dastgir, winding up the debate on the trade with India said that chambers and trade bodies considered MFN status to India as biggest hurdle in the value addition of Pakistani products. Actually, the trade normalization between the two sides is only to utilize the raw material of the respective countries, he added.
On the query of chairman that both India and Pakistan has made any progress to facilitate Pakistani exports to India, secretary commerce informed the committee that they are heading exactly in that direction for facilitating the trade between the two sides. However, he made it clear that Indian import regime is stricter when compared with Pakistan.
Kashmala Tariq, MNA of PML-like-minded group was of the view that the trade with India will definitely benefit consumers and suggested that the ministry to facilitate import of Indian cheaper automobiles for the benefit people.
To another query of Shereen Arshad about the status of the vegetable imports from India, the committee asked the ministry of commerce to ensure smooth supply of vegetable and that the ministry of commerce should maintain records of the trade with India.
Additional secretary commerce Kamran Qureshi gave a detailed presentation on the budget of the commerce ministry, which is Rs5.55 billion for the fiscal year 2012-13, showing an increase of just 4.5 percent. Keeping in view of the current inflationary trend, secretary commerce confessed that actually there is no increase in the budget of the ministry.