The Indian High Commission and the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) have joined hands in an effort to evolve a new mechanism for regular interaction every month to address issues hampering trade between Islamabad and Delhi.
The two sides agreed on this during a visit of Indian High Commissioner Dr TCA Raghavan to the LCCI on Monday.
Raghavan emphasised the importance of a candid and frank discussion on all issues coming in the way of bilateral trade, saying this was the only reason why a new mechanism should be put in place.
He said most of the non-tariff barriers cited by Pakistani businessmen were related to inadequate infrastructure, but admitted that red tape was an issue that was being addressed by the Indian government.
Speaking about the balance of trade that was in favour of Delhi, Raghavan said this depended on the need for goods and services in each country and pointed to India’s trade with China, which was almost zero 15 years ago, but would soon cross $100 billion.
“India runs a trade deficit of $40 billion with China … still the high-quality machines that Delhi imports from Beijing at half the global prices are promoting the Indian economy in a big way,” he said.
Trade turnover between Pakistan and India has improved substantially to $2.5 billion a year as compared to the past and Pakistan has been able to enhance its exports to $500 million for the first time.
Raghavan said normal trading activity was essential and all issues should be addressed.
Discussing the relationship between business communities of the two countries, he said the LCCI’s role in strengthening commerce would always be a major factor in overall progress in trade ties between Pakistan and India.
“Efforts must be made by the governments of India and Pakistan to effectively deal with visa issues, which can only be resolved by working jointly,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari said normalisation of trade links with India was on top of the government’s agenda and it was very important to have direct and regular liaison with each other.
He said the LCCI and the Indian High Commission could provide effective means of communications for the two governments and the people, which would pave the way for a strong argument for greater regional trade.
Referring to trade data of the last three years, the LCCI chief voiced concern that both sides could not succeed in bringing any major increase in bilateral trade. “It suggests that either the efforts made to enhance the trade volume are not enough or there is a need to innovate the existing ways of entering into business deals.”
Pakistan’s major exports to India include fresh fruit, cotton, cement, copper waste, gypsum, ferrous waste of iron and steel, woven cotton fabric, electro-medical apparatus, raw hides and skins, leather, inorganic chemicals, etc. Pakistan’s exports to India account for just 1.4% of its total exports.
On the other hand, its imports from India are soyabean, cyclic hydrocarbons, cotton, tomatoes, polymers of propylene, dried vegetables, synthetic organic colouring matter, tea, artificial synthetic fibres, onions, garlic, etc. These have a share of about 3.6% in total imports of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2014.
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