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Pak-Nepal plan free trade pact: Report

Pakistan and Nepal plan to ink a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), with a high-level bilateral task force set to finalise the pact soon in a bid to boost bilateral trade and business, a news report said today.

world Updated: Jul 24, 2010 22:26 IST

Pakistan and Nepal plan to ink a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), with a high-level bilateral task force set to finalise the pact soon in a bid to boost bilateral trade and business, a news report said today.

Nepal plans to ink the FTA with Pakistan in the next meeting of Joint Economic Commission (JEC) scheduled in October, Daily Times newspaper reported.

"Nepalese side has desired to finalise FTA for the two countries in the next JEC which will be held on October 19-20 this year in Islamabad," the daily quoted a communication sent to the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) from the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said a task force comprising representatives from ministry of commerce from both countries has been set up for finalising the FTA.

The plan has been put on a fast-track after the brief visit of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to Nepal while on his way to Bhutan to attend the SAARC meet in Thimphu in April, sources said.

Even though both Nepal and Pakistan are signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and members of the South Asian Economic Union, the bilateral trade remains negligible. Pakistan’s total exports to Nepal is worth $1.63 million. Exports from Nepal to Pakistan has touched $3.16 million, the report said.

Nepal will be the second country in South Asia to enter into a free trade arrangement with Pakistan after Sri Lanka, which inked a FTA deal with Islamabad some years back.

However, trade to the landlocked nation could prove tricky for Pakistan. Most of Nepalese external trade is through India, which would be unlikely to allow Pakistan to get access to the Nepalese market as Pakistan has consistently denied the same facility to India to move its goods to Afghanistan via the wagah border.

Pakistan and Afghanistan on July 18 reached an understanding on a new bilateral transit trade pact. However, Islamabad will not allow the export of Indian goods by land through Pakistani territory to Afghanistan.