Businessmen and traders of Pakistan and India have agreed that infrastructure bottlenecks are hindering the growth in trade relations between the two sides and these should be removed to deepen the ties.
The consensus was developed between the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) at a meeting at the LCCI on Saturday.
Both sides were of the view that land route was the most competitive as carrying a container through the Wagah-Attari border cost much less compared to the Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi air route that cost many times more. “We need to provide better infrastructure to facilitate trade through the closest route,” a businessman stressed.
They suggested that both the countries should try and explore ways to create synergies, instead of getting excessively competitive. Improved bilateral ties would give necessary impetus to the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta), which would create opportunities for countries of the region, they said.
FIEO President Rafique Ahmad said India was an opportunity for Pakistan and the businessmen should capitalise on it.
He expressed the hope that with the grant of most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India and phasing out of negative trade list, bilateral trade was expected to rise to $6 billion in the next three years from existing $2 billion.
Talking about air link between the two countries, he said he would press the Indian government to increase the number of flights to Pakistan.
LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar suggested Pakistan and India could cooperate in many fields including transfer of technology, raw material, information technology, tourism, agriculture and medical supplies. “Cooperation in these areas can change the fate of people living in the two countries,” he said.
He revealed the LCCI was formulating a strategy keeping in view the critical position of Lahore in the days to come when direct and greater trade between Pakistan and India, particularly through Wagah border, would get under way.
He pointed out that businessmen were aware of the fact that free trade would pose relatively tougher challenges to the Pakistani industry. “To ensure sustainable trade relations with an aim to have long-term benefits of greater regional trade, both the sides need to supplement each other’s economies,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.
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