ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may grant Most-Favoured Nation’s (MFN) status to India after receiving a final offer of substantial concessions in trade from New Delhi.
The final offer from India on market access for Pakistani products would help shape up the fate of the deal, a top government official told Dawn on Thursday.
Pakistan will still go through the modalities of the Indian trade offer.
“We have made very good progress in reaching a stage, where both sides have tried to accommodate each other,” the official said, adding both the sides have made progress since January 2014.
There was no firm deadline for striking the deal, the official said, adding it depends on prompt and timely offer of the Indian government.
Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan had made a conditional offer for granting MFN status to India in January 2014, and had sought access for 250 to 300 of its items at lowered duties.
Since then both the sides have narrowed down their differences on various issues. There are still issues which need to be sorted out.
A high-powered committee, headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, had been constituted to handle all those groups who are opposing normalisation of trade with India.
The official said the offer received from India would be presented before the committee which would evaluate its significance from various angles.
The committee, the official said, will present report on the trade deal to the cabinet for a final approval.
On Thursday, the Dar committee was briefed on progress made so far between the two countries over normalisation of trade.
Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan told Dawn that Pakistan would not offer any unilateral trade concessions to India until composite dialogue is resumed.
The second demand from India is to offer tangible concessions to Pakistan on items of export interest.
The Indian offers will have to entertain these two demands.
Another official told Dawn that only a saleable deal from India would help the ministry of commerce to defend the grant of MFN to India.
There are certain stakeholders, who are opposing the move, especially the opening of Wagha border for trade with India.
These stakeholders even have concerns on containerisation of cargo at Wagha border, but the Dar committee is tasked to look into these issues.
The official said that the commerce ministry operates in a narrow framework, and a substantial progress had been achieved on the trade front. But a final decision will have to be taken by the government.
An official statement on Thursday stated that the Commerce Minister briefed the Dar committee on the progress made on addressing Pakistan’s genuine concerns during his last visit to India.
He also informed the committee that all stakeholders have been taken into confidence and concerns of our industry will be addressed in the process.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that it should be ensured that all concessions are on reciprocal basis and concerns of the industry should be taken care of in the future arrangement.
He said that import from India should substitute our import from other countries which will save valuable foreign exchange.
He emphasised that there should be meaningful market access and level-playing field for Pakistan’s exports to India.
The committee will present its report to the Cabinet for consideration, he added.