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India, Pak to discuss MFN issue on March 27

Pak's stance on granting India the Most Favoured Nation status is expected to be taken up during bilateral talks.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2006 16:13 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Pakistan's stance on granting India the Most Favoured Nation status in the light of SAARC countries ratifying a regional free trade area is among issues expected to be taken up during bilateral talks on economic cooperation from Monday.

Indian Commerce Secretary SM Menon and his Pakistan counterpart Arif Ali Shah, who head the Joint Working Group (JWG) set up two years ago, would meet here on March 27 and 28 to hold the third round of talks on Economic Cooperation listed under the Composite Dialogue process.

Though officials of both sides maintain that the parleys would cover bilateral trade, the talks are taking place in the backdrop of SAARC Secretariat's announcement this week that South Asia Free Trade Area has finally been ratified by all the SAARC countries, which is expected to have a big impact on Indo-Pak trade.

The issue of Pakistan granting India the MFN status as a reciprocal gesture in the light of ratification of SAFTA was also expected to figure in the talks.

India has already sought clarification from Pakistan over reports that Islamabad would continue to trade with India with the negative list of products despite SAFTA ratification.

The JWG met few times in the past but made very little progress in the face of Pakistan's reluctance to publicly open up its markets for Indian products and investment linking it to "tangible progress" on political issues like Kashmir.

Pakistan has complained of high Indian tariff regime and demanded a level playing field for its products in the Indian market.

First Published: Mar 25, 2006 16:13 IST