Pakistan, India likely to sign free visa agreement on 24th


An agreement for liberalising business visa regime between India and Pakistan is likely to be signed at the conclusion of the two-day secretary level talks on May 24 in Islamabad enabling traders of both countries to visit each others’ countries under the free visa agreement.
Federal Secretary of Commerce, Zafar Mehmood stated this while giving a briefing to the NA Standing Committee of Commerce on Thursday headed by Khurram Dastagir Khan.
Mehmood feared that in the beginning of trade liberalisation between the two countries, few sectors would come under pressure but assured the traders of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the country that the government would take all stakeholders on board before taking the final decision.
The commerce secretary, while briefing the committee members on the progress on Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and liberalising the trade regime between the two neighbours said that that ministry had been working with its Indian counterpart on deleting the non-tariff barriers.
He told the committee that both sides were working to enhance the number of custom stations as well as trade routes between the two countries. He said the Indian trade minister would visit Pakistan next month with the trade mission for the deliberations on trade liberalisation between the two countries.
He said while referring the study done by Dr Ishrat Hussain that Pakistan’s trade volume with India can be increased by 10 times as compared to the present day if trade regime liberalised. He said a middle class of 300 million and a total population of 1 billion, an immensely large avenue for Pakistan suppliers.
The commerce secretary told the committee that Pakistan had comparative advantage over India in a range of products, including cotton, textiles, rice, leather, leather products and surgical goods.
He said Pakistan stood to save between $400 million to $900 million on its import bill if it allowed imports from India on several items replacing its present imports from other countries at higher cost.
While briefing the members on the ministry’s budget for FY 2012-13, the secretary said the ministry had demanded Rs 5,549.88 million, of which Rs 5,049.88 million would be used under non-development budget and Rs 500 million would be used under annual development head.