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Indo-Pak talks to focus on trade regime

Pakistan is cautious over liberalising trade as it fears that its industry would be swamped by cheaper Indian goods with which its manufacturing sector is not in a position to compete with.

India and Pakistan will hold joint secretary-level talks next week to firm up the timelines for a more open trade regime between the two countries.

A senior commerce ministry official told MAIL TODAY that Pakistan is cautious over liberalising trade as it fears that its industry would be swamped by cheaper Indian goods with which its manufacturing sector is not in a position to compete with.

The approach, therefore, would be to follow a calibrated approach and reach a level of trade with which Pakistan is comfortable, he explained.

The official-level meeting will take up issues discussed at the commerce secretary-level talks recently so that some concrete announcements can be made when the commerce ministers of the two countries meet in September or October.

The official said that trade in electricity is another area of co-operation and the two countries will explore the possibility of setting up an exchange point between Amritsar and Lahore, which will also be the revival of a historical link.

"India has such electricity exchange points with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and is working on such a link with Sri Lanka as well," he added.

Pakistan currently operates with a small positive list of goods, which it allows India to export. Pakistan had acknowledged that there was a need to plug this gap.

India has asked Islamabad to draw up a smaller negative list of goods, which can be excluded from imports and allow all other goods not mentioned on this list access to the Pakistani market.

Pakistani consumers can gain a lot, for instance, if cheap generic drugs from India are allowed to enter the market as they are forced to buy expensive medicines from multinational pharmaceutical companies. At present, there is only a small list of "life saving" medicines that Pakistanis are allowed to import from India.

Pakistan has asked India for a more liberal visa regime so that its businessmen can visit the country more freely. The Indian response is that the current visa regime in the country is based on what the Pakistani government has in place for visiting Indian businessmen.

Indians visiting Pakistan are given only city-specific visas and have to report to the local police stations about their presence in the particular city.

Courtesy: Mail Today