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Dawn

Published Date: Sep 14, 2012

TRADE LIBRALISATION TO CONTINUE

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Thursday that the government is determined to complete liberalisation process by doing away with the negative list based trade with India by the year-end.

“Pakistan is proud to walk-the-talk with its immediate neighbours with a more optimist, open and positive mindset, coupled with a strong political will and political consensus,” Ms Khar said this while speaking at the fifth South Asia Economic Summit.

In the past 10 months, she said Pakistan moved from positive list based trade with India to negative by allowing trade on maximum trade.

By the end of the year, there would be complete liberalisation of trade regime between the two countries.

The minister said that no one should underestimate Pakistan’s efforts so far in normalising trade relations with India.

“We want to remove all bottleneck in normalisation of trade relations with India,” she remarked.

The minister said that solution to South Asia’s challenges towards sustainable development, in fact, lies in promoting connectivity, deeper integration and overall peace and stability in the region.

“We all want to move forward in sectoral subjects whereby sharing of energy, water and industrial resources can help the region get on a higher development trajectory,” she said.

Ms Hina argued that South Asian countries need to have a closer look and promote new and emerging trends in South Asia.

These include success of regional trade agreements, reduction in non-tariff barriers, liberalisation of services trade, cooperation in food security, currently being discussed trading arrangements in energy and water sectors, cooperation towards challenges posed by climate change and re-examining transport corridors in South Asia.

Muchkund Dubey, former foreign secretary of India, said SAFTA needs new life by removing flaws including a huge negative trade list.

He suggested initiation of a free trade agreement between Pakistan and India.

Mr Dubey also said that the negative list needs to be removed and facilitation measures be put in place to get benefits from free trade between the two countries.

He said that bilateral trade between the two countries would reach over $10 billion in case of liberalisation of trade regime.

Trade Expert Huma Fakhar said that there is a huge potential for increasing trade between the two countries through land route.

She said that Pakistan’s Punjab can trade with Indian Punjab on a number of items.

Unfortunately, she said that only 137 items were allowed for trade on Wagha border.

She suggested allowing trade of all tradable products through land route, which would reduce freight cost and the products would become competitive in both the countries.

Director Centre for Jawaharial Nehru Studies Noam Chomsky Complex Prof Shahid Ahmed said that both countries would get benefits from free trade.

He said exports basket from Pakistan is very limited which needs diversification.

Mr. Ahmad said that Pakistan can explore the one billion plus people market in India.

Dr Abid Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, appreciating the recent positive developments between India and Pakistan, said it is a matter ofgreat pleasure that the South Asian states are realising the logic of cooperation and regional integration.

He said much distance still needs to be covered, but the direction is right, as is the intent.

Panelists of session on social accountability deliberated that concept of social accountability needs to be scaled up to the South Asia level for inclusive development.

Shafqat Munir of Oxfam GB said SAARC has moved from “we the governments” to “we the people”, and this necessitate amendments in its structure to provide room for public aspirations.