Pak notifies negative list for trade with India

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 21, 2012 19:30 hrs

The Pakistan government on Wednesday issued a notification for switching over to a negative list regime for trade with India, where the number of products facing a bar on import from the eastern neighbour will come down to 1,209.

The Commerce Ministry in Islamabad issued a Statutory Regulatory Order for trade with New Delhi under the negative list regime, officials said.

According to the notification, 1,209 items have been included in the negative list and will not be importable from India. Of the importable items from India, 137 products can be brought in from India through the Wagah land border crossing.

Last month, Pakistan had announced that it would be shifting from a positive list regime to a smaller negative list for trade with India in order to normalise bilateral trading relations. This technically means that the moment Pakistan notifies the decision, India would be allowed to export the remaining around 6,000 items to Pakistan.

Major items included in the list of items importable through Wagah are livestock, vegetables and newsprint in rolls or sheets.

Manufacturers can import raw materials, except basic materials that are locally manufactured, and packing material needed for pharmaceutical products once they are approved by the Director General of Health, according to officials.

The import of vaccines will be allowed only from Indian plants that have been approved by the World Health Organisation.

For long, Pakistan had been complaining about several non-tariff barriers that India maintains on imports from that country. These included stringent tests, complex classification of codes, strict import licensing procedures and requirement of special labelling -- all leading to delay and complex paperwork.

Till now, Pakistan had been trading with India under a positive list regime that allowed the import of less than 2,000 items. The imported Indian products coming through other countries increased the cost of items in the local market, officials said.

Finalising the negative list will help to formally start trade between both countries, which will be beneficial for the people of India and Pakistan, an official said.

Pakistan has been also facing severe criticism from several jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to grant India the MFN trade status. Another such outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawah has threatened large-scale protest on the Wagah border if trade with India is normalised. They insist on solving the dispute over Kashmir first and then discuss other issues with India.

On its part, India had granted Pakistan an MFN status way back in 1996, but imports from the western neighbour have remained significantly low compared to vice-versa. According to the data by Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the last five years have seen imports from Pakistan having remained within the range of $250-$300 million. On the contrary, exports to Pakistan from India have more than doubled. In 2010-11, the India-Pakistan trade stood at $2.6 billion. Both sides have set a target of $6 billion worth of bilateral trade by 2014.

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