Commerce Ministry is desperately lobbying to seek support of President Asif Ali Zardari to end the opposition of farmers’ lobbies and some other groups to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India till January 15, 2013.
Government of Pakistan was to grant MFN status to India by December 31, 2012 by phasing out negative list of tradable goods with India, but it has been delayed due to strong opposition of farmers’ lobbies and some other stakeholders.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the president had called a meeting of high-ups of commerce ministry and Senator Sughra Imam on Wednesday in Karachi. Sughra Imam has been a big critic of open trade of agricultural goods with India under MFN status, saying that it would destroy Pakistani growers who do not enjoy farm subsidies like Indian farmers.
“Now commerce ministry wants to grant MFN status to India by January 15 and president’s help is being sought to end opposition of farmers’ lobbies and Senator Sughra Imam,” sources said, adding that Imam has been of the view that government of Pakistan should end negative list of different items in phases.
Sources said that Pakistan had already faced setback in water rights with India due to the construction of Baghlihar Dam and some other small dams like Nimobazgo.
“Commerce ministry is playing one-man show as it got the approval of cabinet to grant MFN status to India without conducting a comparative study on trade liberalisation with neighbouring country,” sources said, adding that an economist Hafeez Pasha has conducted a study with assistance of USAID after commerce ministry has finalised sensitive lists.
Commerce Ministry seems to be very ambitious to open trade with India under MFN status.
“Even commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem and commerce secretary visited Lahore to meet office-bearers of Farmers Association of Pakistan to seek support over granting MFN status to India,” sources said, adding that commerce ministry had now again called a meeting with farmers on January 3.
Hafeez Pasha will give a presentation during the meeting on benefits regarding opening of trade with India under MFN status. The meeting in commerce ministry will be a follow-up of president’s meeting in Karachi to convince the farmers that they would reap benefits from this opportunity and will face no loss.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2013.