Agri forum optimistic about MFN to India

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There is no need to worry about awarding most favoured nations (MFN) status to India as 1,936 items are already importable from India. Some 800 products are on regulatory list offering protection to domestic industry for a certain period to reinforce domestic industry. This was the crux of the speeches of various speakers who addressed at a seminar on “Impact on Pakistani agriculture and livestock sectors after declaring MFN status to India” – organised by Pakistan Agriculture Scientists Forum (PASF). These speakers included Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Safdar Saleem Sial, Ibrahim Mughal, Mustafa Kamal, Syed Baber Ali and Hafiz Wasi Muhammad Khan.
They underscored that by opposing trade with India, Pakistan had only promoted profiteering in the country instead of strengthening domestic industry. They said that almost all economists in the country had consensus liberal trade regime with India would reduce pressure on escalating inflation, where government borrowing from the banking system had become a gigantic problem. Noted entomologist Chaudhary Mushtaq Ahmed Warraich underlined that huge borrowing from the banking system was fuelling inflation and government was left with no option to deal the worse situation. Disparity between income and expenditure had forced the government to rely on bank borrowing. By granting MFN status to India Pakistan could arrest spiraling inflation, he maintained.
Pakistan was importing around Rs7 billion worth of merchandise from India of which Rs5.5 billion worth of products were being traded via Dubai and Singapore. Malpractices in the country’s international trade were increasing the cost of doing business in the country. He suggested that Pakistan should go for joint ventures with Indian companies in IT sector. He indicated that India had significant demand for Pakistani horticulture products, including kinnow and mango, due to their better quality. In addition, local cement industry was more competitive, which could attract huge foreign exchange through cement exports.
Prof Dr Muhammad Nawaz said we are self-reliant in food, stressing the need for good governance and better policies to compete not only with India but also with European countries. He said Pakistan has the world’s best quality buffalos and a huge amount of foreign exchange can be generated by exporting the cattles.
He said presently medicines are being manufactured in the country but raw material is imported. He said UVAS has started several programmes on biological medicine. To bridge gap between industry and academia the UVAS is establishing a vaccine plant with the finance of Rs100 million. He regretted that Pakistan imported poultry vaccines of over Rs6 billion, which can be manufactured in the country through public-private partnership.
Ibrahim Mughal said if government is eager to enhance its imports from the rival nuclear state, first it should import cheaper fertilisers, diesel and electricity from there, as our manufacturers are looting the masses by selling their products at much higher rates, experts said.
“Diesel is Rs94 per liter in Pakistan while in India it is available for Rs77 per liter. Electricity is being provided to Indian growers at Re1 per unit and in Pakistan it is not less than Rs8.38 per unit,” they said. Rate of agriculture produce is much higher in India than Pakistan while their cost of production is very low, as Pakistani farmers spend Rs321.33 billon more on agricultural inputs as compared to Indian growers.
Some speakers were of the view that Indian exports were rising without MFN status whereas Pakistani exports have a downward trend despite having MFN status, as Pakistani exporters cannot get access to Indian markets because of the non-tariff barriers created by Indian bureaucracy.
Indo-Pak bilateral trade particularly through Wagha border route is only benefiting to India, as 31,897 truckloads worth Rs21 billion reached Pakistan while only 4,664 trucks, having goods of Rs1.33 billion, were sent to the nuclear rival state during fiscal year 2010-11, they added.