Pakistan's trade with India can multiply five times if it can capture even a one per cent share of the 300 million-strong Indian middle-class market, according to Dr Ishrat Hussain, the dean and director of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
Addressing a seminar at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) in Islamabad, Hussain, a former governor of the Pakistan's State Bank, said even the Army was on board regarding strengthening trade with India. ''Weak industries in Pakistan can be protected through a negative list,'' he said.
Trade ties between the two South Asian neighbours are expected to improve in 2012, especially with Anand Sharma, the Indian commerce minister, visiting Pakistan from February 13. He is expected to sign an agreement with his Pakistani counterpart to liberalise trade.
The agreement covers customs issues and offers a mechanism for expeditious clearance of cargo, sharing of trade laws, customs valuation, setting up of joint border liaison committees and removing non-tariff barriers. India is also expected to start issuing one-year multiple visas to Pakistani businessmen.
However, Pakistan will not be giving the full, Most Favoured Nation status as yet to India, as it will maintain a negative list of items that cannot be imported.
Last year, Pakistan had in principle agreed to grant MFN status to India, after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed in November to do so at a cabinet meeting. However, recently, Pakistan's commerce minister Amin Fahim indicated that the decision was still under process and had not been implemented.
Sharma said recently he was confident that Pakistan would go ahead and grant India the MFN status. India has already given Pakistan the MFN status.
Sharma will be leading a high-level business delegation comprising top executives of about 100 Indian companies, to Pakistan later this month.