Pakistan, India to talk business in Mumbai

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In a sign of improving bilateral ties, Pakistan’s Commerce and Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem will begin a five-day visit to India from Mumbai tomorrow (Monday), the Hindustan Times reported.
He will be the first Pakistani minister to visit India’s financial hub since terrorists attacked the city nearly three years ago, plunging bilateral ties to a new low. Faheem will be accompanied by an 80-member delegation comprising the elite of Pakistan business, the paper said.
The visit is aimed at promoting bilateral trade with a strong possibility of Pakistan announcing a step forward on the Most Favoured Status (MFN) for India. The two sides are also expected to focus on liberalising the visa regime for businessmen. Faheem will address an India-Pakistan business conclave on Tuesday at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai that bore the brunt of assaults by the terrorists.
Top CEOs from Indian and Pakistani companies are expected to highlight business opportunities and synergies between the two countries. Faheem’s visit builds on the positive atmosphere generated by the talks between foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in June this year, during which the two sides unveiled a host of steps to boost cross-Kashmir trade and travel.
Faheem will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma in New Delhi on September 28. He is also expected to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Ahead of the crucial talks, India is hopeful that Pakistan will grant MFN to it or at least move from the positive to negative list of goods that it does not want to import from India.
This will effectively amount to giving an MFN status to India. India had granted MFN to Pakistan way back in 1996. Pakistan has given access to 1,940 product lines on its positive list and has 12,000 on the negative list. The two ministers are also expected to focus on streamlining procedures for business visas and address issues related to custom duties and inclusion of new products in the trade list, the Hindustan Times said.
India and Pakistan decided to resume their dialogue process in February after a hiatus of more than two years. India-Pakistan trade was estimated at $1.85 billion in 2009-10. Indian exports accounted for $1.78 billion. In April-December 2010, bilateral trade is estimated to have jumped to over $3 billion, with India’s exports at $1.7 billion.
A study by Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations estimates, given reciprocal concessions, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan could go up to $14.3 billion.