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Pakistan committed to implement SAFTA: Aziz

As for India, Pakistan says it cannot permit free trade until the Kashmir issue is resolved.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2007 15:16 IST

Ahead of the SAARC Commerce Ministers meeting in Kathmandu later this month to discuss among others India's complaint of Pakistan's refusal to fully implement SAFTA, Islamabad has said it is committed to implementing the trade agreement.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Friday that Islamabad believed that SAFTA would enhance trade among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.

Pakistan while implementing SAFTA to the rest of the SAARC member states declined to apply it to India stating that it cannot permit free trade until the Kashmir issue is resolved.

The SAARC Commerce Ministers meeting to be attended by ministers of India and Pakistan was expected to take up India's complaint.

Without referring to India's complaint, Aziz said dialogue between SAARC member countries could help in resolving all outstanding issues and the regional bloc could serve as a platform to promote regional cooperation, peace, prosperity and sharing of best practices in South Asia.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri, who too held talks with Bogollagama, said India-Pakistan differences on SAFTA arose due to interpretations and Pakistan wanted India to address its concerns over tariff and non-tariff barriers that restricted Pakistan's exports to India.

Aziz said the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Sri Lanka and Pakistan would further strengthen the economic and trade ties between them. Stating that the current volume of trade between them (around USD 200 million) was much below potential, the two countries decided to set a target of USD 1 billion.

First Published: Feb 17, 2007 15:16 IST