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Business Recorder

Published Date: Dec 12, 2013

India must cut non-tariff barriers: minister

Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister of State for Commerce and Textile
Industry has said that for getting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status it
is imperative that India must reduce non-tariff barriers for Pakistani
products to provide level-playing field.

"Pakistan and India trade and business ventures will create
win-win situations for both countries" however any incident on borders
can have direct negative impact on trade between the two countries, said
Dastagir while addressing the Sustainable Development Policy Institute
(SDPI)’s 16th Annual Sustainable Development Conference.

Khurram Dastagir further said that both the governments realise
the importance of regional connectivity and in this regard, Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken steps to promote a healthy bilateral
relationship, expecting the same from India. Bilateral trade between the
two countries is more complex as a single untoward incident can derail
the whole sustainability process, said the Minister, adding that
sustainable growth is important to overcome the menace of poverty.

The Minister further said that India has given MFN status to
Pakistan in 1996, however instead of increasing the later share in trade
further declined, which needs to be reversed. Both the countries should
have equal access to each others markets, the Minister maintained.

Shaban Khalid President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and
Industry (ICCI) reiterating measures needed for enhancing trade between
India and Pakistan, said negative and positive lists of items between
the two countries needs to be reconsidered.

He further said that though some progress has been made
regarding visa issue, however more efforts are required in this regard
as people-to-people interaction needs to be normalised. Business
community recommends trade normalisation under the MFN with India but
carefully by providing level-playing field, as Pakistani industry has
not performed well during last few years.

India and Pakistan face similar challenges and there is need to
jointly address them, said TCA Raghavan Indian High Commissioner to
Pakistan. He also emphasised that the trade for peace agenda in South
Asia requires immediate attention and should be taken forward by
establishing a connected infrastructure among member states.

Shams Ul Mulk, Former Chairman, Wapda said that as a region
South Asia faces the triangular nexus of food, water and energy
insecurity. He stressed that it was imperative to focus on both,
availability as well as affordability of energy. Musadik Malik, Advisor
to the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that the national power policy
was the only policy approved by all four provinces." Experts in the
panel stressed the need for member states to jointly address energy and
water disputes and challenges in South Asia.

In a panel discussion on the Government’s Vision 2025 Plan,
experts stressed that civil services reforms were needed to ensure due
implementation of policies. There is need for census in Pakistan for
informed policy making. As it is new national census is long due in the
country. There should also be consensus amongst political parties to
ensure persistency in policies.

On the future of food security in Pakistan, experts expressed
that to ensure food security in Pakistan urgent steps are required to
improve agricultural productivity and efficiency. The socio-economic
status of small farmers needs to be enhanced along with structural
reforms in the agricultural sector. Pakistan, Mosharraf Zaidi, renowned
analyst and Team Leader of the Alif Ailaan education campaign, observed
that education in Pakistan has been painfully affected due to political
issues. Experts also emphasised the need for policy-relevant research in
the education sector, as well as increase in budgetary allocations to
the sector.

Speakers also called for improvement in environmental conditions
through reduction in wood cutting and emission of green-house gases.
Experts observed that Pakistan is still adopting the traditional
farm-based production approach. Experts in the panel on Promoting
Freedom of Belief in Pakistan reiterated the equality of all religions
as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. They also added that
education and literature can help shape a more tolerant future of
Pakistan. Curriculum design should be in favour of religious tolerance.

Experts at the panel on Gender Equality highlighted the
significant role that women play in the social, economic and political
realms across various parts of South Asia. Gender equality and
empowerment require minimal foreign aid but active administrative
direction, community participation, and commitment towards
implementation of decisions in favour of gender inclusion. Harris
Khalique, renowned columnist, observed that women are integral to the
political process as well as parliamentary affairs in Pakistan. However,
experts also said that the number of women parliamentarians in Pakistan
has decreased as compared to elections 2008.

Experts highlighted that there is need for citizen empowerment
to bolster accountability of those in-charge. Faisal Shaheen, Visiting
Associate at SDPI, observed that there is need for co-ordination between
state and non-state actors for improvement in service delivery. Khaleel
Ahmed Tetley from RSPN observed that communities should be mobilised to
demand accountability of politicians with regards to service delivery
in the country.

The panel on the role of ICT in economic development discussed
the background of ICT in Pakistan as well as presented a cross-country
comparison of technology growth. Pakistan is one of the fastest
developing markets for the mobile financial services in the developing
world. Studies quoted that adoption of 3G can lead to economic benefits
including enhanced socio-economic development and increased employment.
Financial services through e-banking have the potential to increase GDP
up to 5 percent by 2020. Speakers also stressed that Pakistan must
formulate its own National Broadband Plan.