Pak to go for a short ‘negative list' soon to boost trade with India

Ashwini Phadnis Arun S New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on November 14, 2011

Zafar Mahmood

Pakistan hopes to finalise by January-end or February a shorter ‘negative list' of items to further boost trade with India, the Pakistan Commerce Secretary, Mr Zafar Mahmood, said on Monday.

This would mean that most of the 8,000-odd items, barring a few in the negative list, would soon be allowed to be easily traded between the two countries.

In an interview to Business Line after meeting his Indian counterpart Dr Rahul Khullar, Mr Mahmood said, “We informed the Indian side that we have already stared a process of moving from positive list to negative list. That (the negative list) too would be phased out in the future.”

“This (the negative list) is only to give assurance to the Pakistan business sectors — which feel threatened by Indian imports — that the Government of Pakistan is making an interim arrangement where the goods they fear would destroy the industry would not be importable from India for a period of time. But we have told them very clearly that this is not a permanent arrangement,” he said.

India and Pakistan were trading on positive list (having only items that are tradeable) from 1974-95. After that India did away with the positive list but Pakistan persisted with it.

India has a negative/sensitive list of 865 items for the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, including Pakistan. These include farm products, chemicals, textiles, carpets, electronics and engineering items. New Delhi has indicated that it is considering cutting down even this negative list to boost trade.

Currently, Pakistan allows only 1,946 items (of the 8,000-odd items) to be imported from India. These include farm products, chemicals, pharmaceutical raw materials, wood, steel, machinery and electronics.

Allowing FDI

Mr Mahmood also said India has promised to take up the issue of allowing Foreign Direct Investment from Pakistan once both sides develop trust and confidence.

“There is a lot of potential of investment. We (Pakistan) make no restrictions on Indian investment in Pakistan. But we have not seen many proposals from Indian investors,” he said. India specifically bans investment from Pakistan due to security concerns.

He also said Pakistani banks are very eager to open branches in India to facilitate trade. He said Pakistan has requested Indian authorities, including the Reserve Bank of India, in this regard. “Mr Khullar has promised to help,” he said.

On the joint registration of basmati rice as a Geographical Indication, he said, “I don't think we have made much headway. Obviously it is linked to the overall normalisation of trade relationship. Once we develop trust and confidence in each other, the specifics things can be taken care of.”

He also said the two countries may consider negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in the future once the relationship of fully normalised.

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Published on November 14, 2011
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