Pakistan commerce and trade minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem will begin a five-day visit to India from Mumbai on Monday amid signs that Islamabad will soften its stand and grant most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India.
India’s official trade negotiators said not granting of MFN status violated World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms and also primarily responsible for delaying the operationalisation of Saarc Free Trade Area.
Pakistan remains the only country in South Asia to deny India a MFN status.
In the past, Islamabad had linked MFN with the vexed Kashmir issue, although technically it is a pure trade related matter.
MFN is status where countries agree to offer equal treatment to each other in terms of tariffs and quotas in international trade. The WTO members have agreed to accord MFN status to each other.
Faheem is also expected to make an announcement replacing the “positive list” with a “negative list” by October this year. There are around 2,000 items on Pakistan's “positive list,” which means that Pakistan imports only those items on the list and not anything else.
This is contrary to normal bilateral trade relations, where every country has a ‘negative list’ through which it protects certain sectors.
Faheem will stay and address a business conclave on Tuesday at the iconic Mumbai’s Taj Hotel before moving to Delhi for bilateral meetings with government officials, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
This will be first round of ministerial level trade talks after the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
India-Pakistan trade was $1.85 billion in 2009-10. Indian exports accounted for $1.78 billion. In April-December 2010, bilateral trade is estimated to have gone up to over $3 billion with India’s exports at $1.7 billion.