India to enlarge duty-free list for Pakistan, Sri Lanka under SAFTA

02 February 2015

India proposes to further bring down the list of sensitive items that are at present subject to import duty, in order to widen list of duty-free items under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) for Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

India has already pruned the sensitive list of items for the least developed country members of SAARC ad it would be done for Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a calibrated manner, A M Gondane, joint secretary in the ministry of external affairs told a conference on 'Enhancing India-Pakistan trade', organised by ICRIER on Monday.

"I think in the next committee of experts meeting, we will see a further pruning of list,'' Gondane said

"We will also be doing it for Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had earlier told us that bringing down the sensitive list would have revenue implications for them, but I think some movement is likely to happen soon," Gondane said.

Trade between India and Pakistan is currently stuck at a little more than $2 billion, Gondane said, adding that the problem needed a better analysis to find out what the real problems were.

"Two countries may have political differences, but it need not restrain trade and economic relations," pointed out Ishrat Husain, dean and director of Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.

Husain said that trade between India and China had prospered despite political differences and so had China-Taiwan trade. ''The same can happen for India and Pakistan and the two countries need to seriously look at it," he said.

Earlier, in December, a joint meeting held in Amritsar between various chambers of commerce from India and Pakistan, businessmen from both countries had demanded the setting up of a common 'Business Park' at the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at the Wagah border where traders from the two countries could interact, showcase their products and potentially strike trade deals.

Other issues discussed to facilitate bilateral trade were connectivity issues, especially through the Attari rail route.

Despite border tensions, trade flows between India and Pakistan, however, continue smoothly, although Pakistan is yet to take up the issue of according MFN status to India for trade.

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