'Push to India-Pakistan trade in Islamabad's court'

Posted By: IANS
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New Delhi, Aug 6: With Pakistan yet to take the first among five steps to broaden bilateral trade with India, any movement forward has been stalled even as no decision has been taken on resuming official level talks, parliament was informed Wednesday.

This emerged from a set of written replies given by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh in the two houses on trade ties between India and Pakistan and the status of past negotiations.

Singh said India and Pakistan had agreed to five linear steps to normalise two-way trade relations after the commerce secretaries of the two countries met in 2012:

-Islamabad's removal of restrictions on trade through Wagah-Attari border

-New Delhi's pruning of sensitive import list by 30 percent

-Pakistan's reciprocal grant of most-favoured nation status to India

-Further reduction of sensitive import list by India by 2013

-Similar reciprocal move by Pakistan by 2017.

"As Pakistan has not taken the first step, i.e, notification of removal of restrictions on trade through Wagah-Attari land route, the roadmap that includes transition to most-favoured nation status for India, has remained unimplemented," Singh told the Lok Sabha.

Sitharaman said even though the commerce ministers of the two countries had met in New Delhi in January on the margins of a SAARC business meet, no decision had been taken on bilateral talks -- suspended since escalation of alleged border violations by Islamabad.

"No formal decision has yet been taken by commerce ministries of India and Pakistan to resume talks on bilateral trade," Sitharaman said in her written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

Referring to the 2012 meeting, she said: "Both sides decided to intensify and accelerate the process of trade normalization, liberalization and facilitation and to implement the agreed measures before the end of February 2014."

At the same time, she added, senior functionaries of Pakistan and trade representatives had voiced concerns over so-called non-tariff barriers in India as also apprehensions that opening up of trade with India will harm certain segments of Pakistan's economy.

Pakistan, the minister said, had kept 1,209 tariff lines in the negative list of imports in areas such as automobiles, steel, paper and boards, plastics, textiles, electrical machinery and pharmaceuticals.


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