No MFN if negative list of trade exists: Sec’y Commerce

Commerce Secretary Zafar MehmoodKARACHI: There would practically be no grant of Most Favored Nation (MFN), until negative list of trade exists between Pakistan and India, said Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood.

He was talking to a group of journalists. However, Pakistan made India a special case, and was still formulating the negative list to save domestic industry. For sector specific study and extensive consultation, the process was still going on and after in-depth evaluation the final list would be provided to cabinet for approval, the secretary said. In reply to a query, Mehmood said the proposed negatives list would be completed by February 2012 after completion of sector specific study consultation. Ministry and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) have already held six extensive meetings with all representatives of sectors and trade bodies so far.

Referring to a joint statement issued after recently held commerce secretaries meeting in Delhi, he said Islamabad has informed Delhi that consultation process on devising negative list was almost complete. A small negative list would be finalised and ratified by February, 2012. Thereafter, all items other than those on negative list would be freely exportable from India to Pakistan.

In the second stage, negative list will be phased out. Schedule for this phasing out will be announced in February 2012 at the time the list is notified and it is expected that the phasing out will be completed before the end of 2012. The move was instigated after Pakistan’s decision to transit from the current positive list approach to a negative list.

To a question, he replied that central bank of India was mulling over a few options to facilitate trade. It is being considered that India might open a bank branch or a subsidiary institution in Pakistan to resolve the banking issue. However Pakistani side, he said has made it clear that until banking facility is not there bilateral trade cannot be enhanced. Secretary said physical infrastructure of the second gate at Wagah land route was being developed to ensure un-interrupted transit of goods. All infrastructure construction would be completed, making the new gate fully operational no later than end of February 2012.

Talking about the much debated Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) he said joint working group would continue interaction to address any clearly identified sector-specific barriers to trade. He informed that Indian side, in a meeting held in Delhi, had also said that all standards and specifications were non-discriminatory, and they are applied to all countries exporting goods to India.

In reply to a query, he said Indian side has also insured that some technical impediments in investment clauses would be removed to facilitate investment in both countries. Apart from trade with India, Mehmood said, Pakistan was also focusing on trade options with other regional blocks specially, ECO, D-8, GCC, ASEAN, SAARC and OIC etc. – PT