Pakistan expects exports from India to surge dramatically with the granting of most-favoured nation status, says Tariq Puri, chief executive of the Pakistan government’s Trade Development Authority.
“I have told our side not to be scared. Let the mindset of India’s customs and standards officials change, then the onslaught of Pakistani exports will begin.”
Puri said Indian exports will rise because almost all the roughly $ 5 billion third-party trade that goes through Dubai and elsewhere was Indian goods going to Pakistan.
“This will be straightaway converted into bilateral trade,” he said.
On the books, India’s export surplus will seem to balloon.
“Only Indians used the third party route, not Pakistanis,” he said.
Puri is in New Delhi as part of a large Pakistani trade promotion of high-end Pakistani goods called Lifestyle Pakistan.
He noted his authority holds 100 such events around the world, “but this is the first one in which all the major business names of Pakistan have come altogether.”
He his confident Indo-Pakistani trade normalization will weather all political storms.
“The process started last year and whatever has been agreed at different fora and at different levels, nothing has been disturbed.”
Puri said the present process “needs to be crafted in such a manner that it is sustainable and irreversible, no matter what happens.” He said trade needed to be “desentimentalised,” it should be pragmatic and about “making money.”
The objective of the Pakistan businesses was not merely to sell products, but also to develop networks among retailers, exporters and wholesalers.
They would also seek Indian capital goods. Thus Pakistani rice millers, Puri said, are looking at rice bran oil refining equipment and rice-steaming plants.
Looking to the future, Puri said, India needed to open its investment regime, especially to allow banking relations, and ease its present visa restrictions.
“This would allow trade in services.”
A former trade negotiator, he also argued for India and Pakistan to find a common solution on the tricky geographical indicators issue for basmatic rice.
“It’s only about accommodation and accepting realities on the ground,” he said.
But he still indicated India could not assume trade normalisation could move forward on a solo track. In a tangential reference to Kashmir, he noted that “it is important that all issues are resolved in tandem with progress in trade.”