Under an agreement, Islamabad is scheduled to abolish its negative list of tradable goods with India by December 31. The list contains 1,209 items that cannot be imported. Ahead of the move, farmers say they were not taken on board while the decision on granting the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India was taken.
Giving their side of the picture Farmers Associates Pakistan President Tariq Bucha said: “The government’s decision to give India the MFN status is a one-sided and a hasty step, taken without considering the pros and cons. We would suggest that the federal government not implement this decision without consulting the provinces and stakeholders.”
Growers complain that no importance is given to agriculture in Pakistan’s budget, while India spent trillions of rupees on agriculture in 2011-12. In India, a urea bag is available for Rs350 (Pakistani Rs700), while in Pakistan it costs between Rs1,800-2,000, claimed Bucha.
Bucha went on to say that duty-free import of potatoes from India would destroy Pakistani farmers. “Indian farmers are getting $88 billion in subsidy: Pakistani farmers will not be able to compete with that,” he said; adding that the government should impose a regulatory duty equal to the subsidy given to Indian farmers.
“Indian goods that are hugely subsidised will destroy the Pakistani farmers’ community,” he said. He added that the World Trade Organization supported the opening of markets, but it also discouraged subsidies.
“India is still giving subsidies; therefore, the Pakistani market should not be opened for agricultural goods,” he added.
Another farmer said that if the government does not take farmers on board, they will have no option but to take matters into their own hands – including physically blocking imports of agricultural products from India to safeguard their interests.
The Ministry of Industries has recommended linking the phasing-out of the negative list to proportionate measures taken by India towards the reduction of non-tariff barriers etc. In case India fails to remove the trade barriers as committed for a given duration, the industries ministry says the phasing-out should not be allowed for that year/period.
There are also speculations that the MFN status to India will be delayed. Pakistan had announced in October 2011 that it would grant the MFN status to India on January 1, 2013, but a top bureaucrat at the prime minister’s secretariat told The Express Tribune that the federal cabinet will accord a final consent in this regard, but the cabinet’s meeting is not scheduled before the start of the New Year.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2012.
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