The government will use sea routes for trade with India and also open land routes via the borders of Sindh and southern Punjab to boost trade with its eastern neighbour, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir told the National Assembly on Wednesday.
During the question hour session, he said the commerce ministers of the two countries held a meeting on January 18 in New Delhi where they agreed to increase work hours at the Wagah-Attari border to have round-the-clock operations. The proposal will be approved after all stakeholders are consulted.
In February 2012, the Indian commerce minister visited Pakistan and the two sides, among other things, discussed the possibilities of opening the Khokhrapar-Munabao trade route, he mentioned to the house. But this can be implemented after the approval of relevant stakeholders, he said, adding that consultations were under way.
Currently, the Khokhrapar-Munabao trade option lacks the infrastructure needed for the exchange of goods and services, such as a proper road network, and separately, sea routes to India do not have a customs set-up at ports.
Dastagir also revealed that the trade agreements signed with different countries over the years have many weaknesses, adding that the pacts could have been better negotiated. In future, Pakistan has to do its homework when it enters into trade agreements with other countries so that it can reap more benefits, he explained.
However, despite the flaws in the agreements, exports have increased. Export to China has witnessed a 400% increase following a trade agreement, the minister added.
According to the document provided to the house by the commerce ministry, four trade agreements have been made with different countries during the last five years. These agreements include: the Agreement on Trade in Services between Pakistan and China was signed on February 21, 2009; Pakistan-Indonesia Preferential Trade Agreement signed on February 3, 2012; Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) inked on October 28, 2010; and the Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services on April 29, 2010.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2014.