Pakistan has proposed that trade of all items with India – except those included in the negative list – should be allowed through the Wagah land border, Commerce Secretary Munir Qureshi has said.
Qureshi said his Ministry has forwarded a proposal in this regard to the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC), the main decision-making body on economic matters.
At present, only 137 items can be traded through the Wagah land border, though the total number of items for bilateral trade runs into thousands. After the proposal is approved by ECC and a formal notification is issued, trade through the Wagah border will be allowed for all items except 1,209 goods that are in the negative list, official sources were quoted as saying by daily ‘The News’.
The Pakistan government in March had switched over to a negative list regime for trade with India, under which the import of only 1,209 Indian products are barred.
According to Qureshi, the negative list is expected to be phased out by December. He said trade between the two countries would increase manifold after the removal of barriers but it would take some time to understand the dynamics of markets on each side.
Official sources said that during recent talks between the Commerce Secretaries in Islamabad, both sides had decided that the customs liaison committee would meet every month instead of once every two months. They said it was also agreed that customs authorities of both countries would clear goods seven days a week.
It was further agreed that the list of trade items would be the same for land and sea routes. India will reduce the list by 30 per cent but only after Pakistan notifies the removal of all restrictions on trade by the Wagah land route, the report said. During recent bilateral talks, Pakistan and India made progress on key issues like trade through land routes, connecting the capitals of both countries by air, removing non-tariff barriers and cooperation in the telecommunications sector. The two sides agreed that the next round of talks will be held in New Delhi by April next year.
India has maintained a sensitive list of 614 items under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement and it will bring down the figure to 100 items by April.