Pakistan and India on Friday have signed three agreements for cooperation in customs matters, redressal of trade grievances and conforming to quality standards to further normalise economic relations between the two countries.
“These agreements are expected to substantially facilitate bilateral trade mechanisms,” a joint statement issued after the two-day commerce secretary level talks said. These pacts are aimed at streamlining trade between the countries and seeking to remove irritants that have prevented bilateral trade from realising its potential.
Indian Commerce Secretary S R Rao was here for the 7th round of talks on Commercial and Economic Co-Operation with his Pakistani counterpart Munir Qureshi. The joint statement said both sides expressed satisfaction signing of the agreements and directed the relevant authorities to frame rules and procedures to fully implement these agreements.
During the talks, Qureshi said certifications, licensing and lab testing are not the only non-tariff barriers (NTBs). He said issues like delays in customs clearance, non availability of railway wagons for cargo transport, absence of direct flights or any problem which delays the clearance of goods with no end results or change, faced by importer/exporter is an NTB.
He reiterated that concrete solutions for all such issues are crucial for ensuring market access in the Indian markets for Pakistani exporters. It was also agreed that on the same pattern as mutual recognition agreement between Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), another pact between Export Inspection Council of India (EIC) and PSQCA would be signed.
“Both sides have already exchanged the draft texts and it was agreed to complete the internal approvals before the next meeting of the Commerce Secretaries,” it said.
Further, it said, that in order to frame rules and procedures to implement the two agreements signed between the Customs Authorities, it was agreed that joint working group on customs would meet in the following month either at Karachi or Mumbai. The statement said Pakistan has informed that summary for removal of restrictions on trade through land route has been moved to the Cabinet and said a decision to this effect is expected to be notified before October end. It said Pakistan would transition fully to Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for India by December as agreed earlier. Both the sides also agreed to reduce their sensitive list under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).
“Before the end of 2017, India and Pakistan would have no more than 100 tariff lines in their respective SAFTA sensitive lists. Before end 2020, except for this small number of tariff lines under respective SAFTA sensitive lists.