NEW DELHI: Pakistan will be holding its first single country trade fair in India sometime this year, a top Pakistani official has said. “The four day event will be held in New Delhi,” M Yousuf Khan, director of the Trade Development Authority (TDA) of Pakistan, told IANS on the sidelines of a Pakistani trade fair. Though Khan himself would not speculate on the dates for the fair, other sources said that it would be held in October.
Prior to the fair, secretaries of the commerce ministries of the two countries would meet to thrash out outstanding issues, Khan added. Pakistani officials are gung-ho about promoting official trade with India and divert what has been going on unofficially into official trade. The official trade is only a fraction of the volume of unofficial trade, which is worth over a billion dollars.
Khan was hopeful that the on-going political détente between India and Pakistan would help improve economic ties between them. “The current state of Pakistan-India relations are sound. India believes that a stable Pakistan is the best option for it. There will be a spill-over into India if Pakistan is unstable,” Khan said. “Increased trade links will help forge political understanding,” added Muhemmed Ejaz, economic counsellor at the Pakistani embassy in Colombo.
Ejaz said that it was time India and Pakistan thought in terms of promoting trilateral India-Pakistan-Sri Lanka trade, making use of the ties forged by the free trade agreements (FTAs) which had been entered into by India and Pakistan with Sri Lanka, separately.
“The FTAs entered into by Pakistan and India with Sri Lanka, albeit individually, have opened up possibilities for trilateral trade,” he said.
“Pakistan and Sri Lanka should not trade without taking India as the centre,” Ejaz suggested. Sri Lanka and Pakistan entered into an FTA in 2002, which became operational in 2005. The current trade between the two countries is small, $270 million annually.
“But it could grow as the on-going exhibition shows,” Ejaz said.
“Almost all the Pakistani companies taking part in the exhibition here have entered into deals with Sri Lankan parties,” he added. “But Pakistani traders are still not aware of the potential of the FTA with Sri Lanka though, thanks to the FTA, the two way trade had gone up from $130 million in 2005 to $270 million in 2007,” he said.
Asked about Pakistan’s denial of most favoured nation (MFN) treatment to India, Ejaz said MFN status could not be given to India while the basic political issue of Kashmir remains unsolved. But Khan believes the problem lies elsewhere. Pakistan’s complaint was that India had put up many non-trade barriers, he said.-SANA