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Pakistan waiting for new government in India to strike trade deal: Rashid

22 March 2014

Pakistan on Friday deferred a decision on granting non-discriminatory market access to India and said it would wait for the new government to take charge in New Delhi for striking a liberalised trade deal with India, even as Indian officials blamed Islamabad for going back on its promises.

The Nawaz Sharif government postponed a meeting of its cabinet scheduled for Friday that was to take up among other things the issue of granting India non-discriminatory market access (NDMA) -- a move that would have resulted in removing import ban on 1,209 Indian
products and opened up access through the land route.

Indian officials said the government is disappointed with Pakistan's move to defer a decision on extending NDMA status to India,  which would have ended the on-going stalemate in the trade liberalisation dialogue.

Pervaiz Rashid, Pakistan's minister of information and broadcasting, said all the cabinet members were not available for the meeting.

The Dawn newspaper, meanwhile, quoted Pakistan government sources as saying that the cabinet meeting on the issue will now take place in "couple of weeks".

India is also going for elections in May, and the PML-N government would now rather strike a trade deal with the new government, Pakistan commerce ministry spokesman Muhammad Ashraf said, "The Ministry always remains prepared and provides professional input to the cabinet whenever a matter related to trade is to be discussed in the cabinet"

The cabinet meeting was to decide on abolishing the negative list of tradable items (1,209 items) and allowing import of more than 7,000 items via Wagha border.

Currently, only 138 items are importable from India via this route. NDMA is a substitute for most-favoured nation (MFN) status chosen by the Pakistan government to avoid political ramifications at home of giving India MFN status.

The Indo-Pak trade dialogue, which has the potential of increasing bilateral trade from the current $3 billion to an estimated $20 billion, was stalled in January 2013 following dispute over contraband material seized from a Pakistan truck.

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