ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is considering allowing import of 22 more items from arch-rival India by shrinking the list of banned products in the upcoming trade policy.
According to official documents, the government is going to expand the positive trade list with India. The commerce ministry has prepared a list of 22 items which Pakistan has been importing from Europe but can import from India.
The decision is billed to save millions in terms of having cheaper products and paying lesser freight charges.
The list includes mobile phone sets, cosmetics, chemicals, rice and cotton seeds, spare parts, heavy machinery, all types of human vaccines, injections, and pharmaceuticals.
The proposal is part of the Trade Policy 2010-11, which requires prime minister’s approval. A commerce ministry official said the ministry has requested the PM to give time for the presentation so that the new trade policy could be announced, which has been delayed due to unavailability of the premier.
“The decision to expand the positive list will change the trade direction and Pakistan would be able to import cheap products which it buys at exorbitant rates from Europe and America,” said former commerce secretary Salman Ghani. He favoured trade liberalisation with India, saying that the expansion of trade links with New Delhi was in keeping with the current three-year broader policy framework, which was approved by the cabinet last year.
Salman said that trade with India would not hurt the domestic industry. Rather it would make it more competitive. He emphasised that Pakistan should import goods from India but at the same time it should also talk to New Delhi to relax non-tariff trade barriers.
Pakistan has been gradually improving trade ties with India. It has expanded the importable items list from 773 in July 2006 to 1934 items in March 2009. The decision to expand the list further would be in sharp contrast to the government’s policy towards India which seeks resolution of political issues first before talking business.
India’s official position is that increase in trade may reduce tensions and normalize bilateral relations. Because of political enmity the intra-regional trade in South Asia is 15 per cent of the total regional trade, which in the words of Salman Ghani is “shameful”. The bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was recorded at $1.81 billion in 2009.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2010.
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