LAHORE: India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will walk into Pakistan through Wagah border on Monday morning at the head of big trade delegation on a three-day visit to Pakistan for talks to normalise trade relations between the two countries.
During his stay, he is expected to visit a three-day exhibition of Indian products starting on Saturday at the Lahore Expo Centre and hold a series of meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim, officials and businessmen in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.
Mr Sharma was invited to visit Pakistan by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was the first Pakistani commerce minister to visit India last year in over three decades.
The visit has already generated huge interest in the both countries as it is billed to help break the non-tariff and tariff barriers between two largest south Asian economies. The visit is a sequel to commerce secretary level talks that resumed in April last year.
The direct trade between India and Pakistan constitute less than one per cent of their respective global trade. India exported goods worth $2.33 billion to Pakistan last year while its imports from the country were a mere $330 million.
While Islamabad maintains a positive list of less than 2000 items that can be traded officially, New Delhi has erected non-tariff barriers to restrict imports from Pakistan.
Pakistan’s cabinet recently approved in principle to give MFN (most favourite nation) status to India subject to elimination of non-tariff barriers against its exports. In return for dismantling of non-tariff barriers to its exports, Islamabad has agreed to switch over to a negative list of items by the end of this month.
Indian media have recently reported that New Delhi has agreed to sign three pacts – customs cooperation, mutual recognition agreements on quality certification and grievances redressing mechanism – for the removal of non-tariff barriers. But only the first pact is ready as India has some problems with the Pakistani draft on grievances redressing and has prepared a counter-draft.
In the meanwhile, Makhdoom Amin Fahim will inaugurate the India Show organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in collaboration with India’s commerce ministry with support from Pakistan’s commerce ministry and the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Around 150 Indian companies will showcase their products.