The Times of India
Asha Rai, TNN
LAHORE: If there is political will, India and Pakistan can start trading with each other as a common market without in any way infringing on their respective trading relationships with other countries. This is because a common market was envisaged for the two nations at the time of independence.
Speaking at the 2nd Indo-Pak Economic Conference, Pakistan commerce secretary Zafar Mahmood said under Article 24 of GATT, India and Pakistan can function as a single economy. “This has not been realized though India and Pakistan had great trade with each other initially. Even when war was on,” he said.
He said trade, which was almost normal till 1965, was suspended till 1974 when it was re-started on a positive list basis. While India accorded Pakistan the most favoured nation (MFN) status in the mid-90 s, it has not really translated into large exports to India as Pakistani businessmen say non-tariff barriers are high, he said.
The past year has seen real progress being made to ease trade relations. From a positive list, Pakistan has now shifted to a negative list (goods that cannot be imported from India) of 1,209 items.
The government has promised to phase that out by the year-end subject to successful negotiations with India on a number of pending traderelated issues, he said. He said India has given concessions to all SAARC nations, except Pakistan and Sri Lanka but with the latter it has a separate FTA.
Mian Muhammed Mansha, chairman of MCB Bank said all trade points operational in 1965 should be re-opened . Speakers at the conference highlighted that informal trade between the nations is high and every effort should be made to capture it legally so that both countries gain.
Bashir Ali Muhammed, chairman , Gul Ahmed, pointed out that $600-million worth goods come to Pakistan from India annually through the informal route. He said it is a pity that the two countries, which account for 90% of the region’s GDP, have poor trade relations currently.