No MFN status to India for now

| Dastgir says secretaries to discuss market access | May review electricity trade, opening of bank branches

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Monday ruled out the possibility of granting Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India in the trade talks to begin from Wednesday (tomorrow) in New Delhi.
“Granting MFN status to India is not part of agenda of the talks as both sides will hold negotiations on giving non-discriminatory access (NDA) to the markets of two countries,” said Minister of State for Commerce and Textile Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan while talking to The Nation on Monday. The title of the talks will be “meeting for review of previous round of setting of fresh timelines”.
He informed that Pakistan would raise the issue of non-tariff barriers faced by the business community of Pakistan. 
“The two-day secretary-level talks will start from tomorrow (Wednesday), which will be followed by the meeting of commerce ministers of the two countries,” said Khurram Dastgir Khan. “I will visit to New Delhi to attend the SAARC Business Conclave starting on Friday and will hold meeting with my Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the business conclave,” said the state minister.
Last round of talks between Pakistan and India was held in September 2012. Sources informed that both sides would also review the electricity trade, opening of bank branches in the upcoming talks.
Sources said that non-discriminatory access (NDA) is the other name of Most-Favoured Nation status for India, which will have lesser political implication. On the issue of NDA, the source said that Pakistani ministry of commerce would approach the stakeholders after making progress on phasing out of the negative list.
The government has not decided to grant Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, as it would consider it after 2014 general elections of the neighbouring country, sources said. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already made it clear that there is no immediate plan to give MFN status to India, saying there is a need to normalise relations between the two countries. However, Pakistan had assured the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as part of $6.64 billion loan agreement, of granting the MFN status to India. “We are moving forward to eliminate the negative list on trade with India and extend India the Most-Favoured Nation status,” Pakistan had said in a letter to the IMF.
Meanwhile, according to statement issued here, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will inaugurate the 5th South Asian Business Leaders Conclave (SBLC) on Thursday in New Delhi. Engr Khurram Dastagir, who will lead the Pakistani delegation, will address the ministerial round along with his counterparts from other South Asian countries.
“The SBLC, which has been graduated to Economic Davos of South Asia is a biennial event of SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SAAC CCI) which is addressed by eminent personalities, business leaders and policy makers from across the region,” states a press release issued by chairman media, diplomatic affairs and public relations FPCCI Malik Sohail Hussain. The 5th edition of the Conclave is being organised in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation: regional directorate, New Delhi.
About 300 delegates from across South Asia are expected to participate in the Conclave which is being organised under the theme “South Asian Century: Progressing towards Regional Integration” while focusing on important contemporary and emerging issues. The inaugural session will be followed by Ministerial Round “Taking Stock of the South Asian Economic Integration Process” wherein Commerce/Economic Affairs Ministers from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will share their vision to foster regional integration process in South Asia. In addition to five sessions on important issues like energy cooperation, entrepreneurial development, South Asia in 21st Century and others the Conclave also includes dedicated session on youth.
In addition to Indian commerce minister, the inaugural session will be addressed by Ahmed Saleem, Secretary General South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Vikramjit Singh Sahney, President SAARC CCI, Sidharath Birla, President FICCI and Siegfried Herzog, Regional Director FNF.
The ministerial round will also be addressed by Shaker Kargar, Minister of Commerce and Industry Afghanistan, Norbu Wangchuk, Minister of Economic Affairs Bhutan, Mohamed Saeed, Minister for Economic Development Maldives, Shanker Prasad Koirala, Minister for Commerce and Supplies Nepal and Abdul Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce Sri Lanka.
The unresolved issue relating to expanded ‘containerized trade’ is likely to be taken up in secretary-level talks in New Delhi.
Well-informed sources aware of the development told TheNation that the factor has also caused limited trade from the land route of Wagah/Attari while more committed effort to implementing the roadmap from both sides remained unseen unfortunately.
The two sides in secretary-level talks are likely to agree on fresh timelines for implementing the agreed roadmap regarding expanded bilateral trade.
“Expanded bilateral trade and political relationship between India and Pakistan would surly help both the countries to get the Safta agreements implemented in its true spirit,” a businessman from Pakistani side commented. He also said that without the removal of major obstacles by India in the way of expanded trade, Pakistan should set aside one of its promise it had made earlier in the roadmap pertain to grant India with the MFN (most favoured nation) status.
It is to note here that India’s trade with Bangladesh, for example, has more than doubled to $5.8bn since 2010. Similarly, its trade with Nepal has surged from $1.9b to $3.6bn and with Sri Lanka from $2.5bn to $4.6bn. Pakistan, on the other hand, has remained far behind to boost its trade significantly with the Saarc member countries. Its trade with Nepal is negligible and with Bangladesh $650mn and with Sri Lank $384mn.

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