India, Pak trade secys to meet to firm up trade

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, June 26: | Updated: Jun 27 2008, 00:53am hrs
India and Pakistan would attempt to increase the basket of commodities for bilateral trade when the commerce secretaries of both sides meet in August 2008.

"We have already liberalized 30% of our tariff line for facilitating imports from India. We have imported items like onions, potatoes, tomato, sugar from India and exported cement to meet the needs of the Indian construction industry," said the visiting commerce secretary of Pakistan, Syed Asif Shah.

Over the last few years there has been a healthy growth in bilateral trade between the two countries. In the period 2001-02 to 2006-07 bilateral trade has grown from $ 236 million to $ 1.579 billion and is projected to touch $ 2 billion in 2007-08.

"This increase in bilateral is in favour of India. We need to address the para-tariff and non-tariff barriers imposed by India for ensuring a level playing field," said the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission in Pakistan, Salman Faruqui, who is leading business-cum-official delegation to India.

Shah particularly complained about the tariff and non-tariff barriers relating to textiles in India.

According to World Bank informal trade between India and Pakistan is about $ one billion. Both the countries are interested in reducing the informal trade by expanding official trade trough land route.

"On our side of the Wagah border we have expanded the infrastructure for parking of over 500 trucks. We hope such infrastructure facility should be developed on the Indian side for reducing traffic congestion at the border," said Shah.

The agreement already in place for opening two bank branches by each country needs to be fast tracked, said Faruqui. "Pakistan's United Bank has already applied for opening its branches in India and is awaiting approval. We would be happy to facilitate an Indian bank's application as soon as it is received," he said.

Calling for improved trade and investment between the two countries on reciprocal basis, Faruqui said that India and Pakistan should be prepared to meet the food and energy needs of the world to an extent.

Pakistan's minister for water resources and power, M Ismail Qureshi said, "About 40% power generation in Pakistan is done by the private sector. We have formulated a policy which says that further expansion of thermal power generation capacity would be done by the private sector alone." He said that Pakistan would invite Indian companies to set up joint ventures in the power sector and would expect in return similar facility to be extended by India.