LAHORE: For the first time in the Indo-Pak history since partition in 1947, the commerce ministers of both the countries along with high-powered business leaders gathered at the Lahore Expo Centre on Monday pledging to open arms, hearts and gates for one another to tape trade potential of both South Asian states furthering the track II diplomacy successfully.
“Hurdles to free trade between Pakistan and India are being removed through sustained dialogue as continuous interaction has helped bridge the differences between the two sides enabling India to organise its first-ever trade show in Pakistan,” said Indian Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textile Anand Sharma while speaking at the closing ceremony of the three-day The India Show.
The stage of the Expo Centre’s main auditoriums was decorated with flags of both countries at the extreme edges and logos of Pakistan Commerce Ministry, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India and India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF).
Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, President Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries R V Kanoria, SAARC Chamber of Commerce President Vikramjit Sing Sahney, former Confederation of Indian Industries president Sunil Munjal, LCCI Senior Vice President Kahisf Younis Meher and LCCI Vice President Saeeda Nazar also spoke on the occasion.The Indian minister said that India is committed to work with Pakistan on bilateral trade, which is vital for the prosperity of both countries. He said that it is indeed a historic occasion to see businessmen from both sides of border engage with each other.
He said that a second gate at Wagah would be ready for traffic by April 30 this year that would further smoothen the trade between the two sides. He said this generation of leadership of both countries has the duty to pass on hope, peace and prosperity to the next generation. “We should act in a way that the next generation remembers us as people with maturity and vision,” he said. He said the trade potential between the two countries is unlimited. He said soon after independence 70 percent of the trade of this region was between these two countries. Now the trade between the two is less than 1 percent of their global trade, he added. He said while the business leaders of the two countries are expected to move ahead in Lahore to cement trade ties the political leadership would take some very important decisions in Islamabad.
Sharma added to this that formal agreement on multiple visas would be signed soon. Fahim said that Pakistan was gradually moving towards free trade with India. He said the positive list would be replaced with negative list first after which the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status would be accorded to India.He said that it was a great opportunity for the two countries to resolve their trade related issues through talks. He said the process of enhancing bilateral trade started through his visit to India and now the follow up visit of Indian commerce minister to Pakistan will expedite the process. “Our target is to move forward fast to achieve the targets in a minimum possible time,” he said.
About easy visas for business community, Fahim said it was principally decided by the two countries to grant multiple entries to multiple cities visas to the business community of the two countries. LCCI president in his address said that both the sides needed to evolve a workable methodology to tap the potential in the two countries, which is enormous. He said that the concerns of pharmaceutical, automobile, motorcycle, auto parts, sugar, textiles, cooking oil and ghee, and other industrial sectors must be addressed in a comprehensive manner at the earliest. Shiekh said that LCCI favours free trade with India and asked the Indian government to remove non-trade barriers to ensure fair and free trade between the two countries.
The LCCI president said that without removing non-tariff barriers, greater trade between the two countries would remain elusive. “We also need to harmonise standards and quality parameters for improving trade performance. This is only possible when exporters on both sides are actively supported by their respective governments and by suitable institutional and organisational setups to facilitate bilateral trade.”He said that this demands consistency in trade talks at all levels. The governments of both the countries have an indispensable role to play. The economic prosperity of the people of this region should not be held hostage to any unfortunate occurring. The continuity of dialogue will ensure that problems are identified and resolved.
Pakistan and India together form one of the largest consumer markets in the world. We are situated at a historical trade route. The prospects of economic prosperity through trade in the region are very strong. The India Show 2012 has set the right tone to move forward but we need to get fully engaged using all other means to cover the long journey to prosperity in least possible time. – Dailytimes