Delegation in India for trade talks

Published August 9, 2005

NEW DELHI, Aug 8: Pakistani delegates arrived here on Monday for a two-day discussion with India on bilateral trade amid small concessions and yawning differences on the tariff and non-tariff barriers. Acting Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Shah is leading the delegation of experts and businessmen who will try to go beyond the limited agenda of piecemeal trade.

Pakistan for example has opened up to Indian imports through the Wagah border of goods ranging from buffaloes to sugar. Likewise, according to an announcement this week, textiles, fruits and dry fruits from Pakistan will attract lesser duty in India. This is obviously not enough.

An official review says that Pakistan-India bilateral trade has risen by 76 per cent, touching $600.77 million, in the fiscal year 2004-05. The unofficial trade between them is far more than that.

To enhance their mutual trade, both countries last year decided to set up a joint study group (JSG) on economic cooperation. The first meeting of the JSG was held in February this year. Two working groups have been set up on customs and trade facilitation measures and non-tariff barriers with a view to enhance cooperation in these areas.

Tuesday’s talks come in the wake of Pakistan opening up the hitherto closed land border for duty-free import of essential commodities like meat, onions, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes as well as sugar. Pakistani diplomats said the measure would help bring down the soaring prices back home.

This week Pakistan also lifted a four-year ban to import 100,000 ton sugar from India. The supplies of all the items are believed to have begun trickling down by road, rail and through ships. Shipping, air links and transit trade to Central Asia via Pakistan’s land corridor will form part of India’s quest at the talks.

The two sides will also discuss the possibility of opening banks in each other’s country dedicated to boost trade and commerce.

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