Islamabad, Dec 24: Pakistan and India should “agree to trade freely for their own and the region’s prosperity”, said a leading Pakistani daily Tuesday.
An editorial in the Dawn said the Nawaz Sharif government is believed to have decided to de-link the issue of trade relations with India from the progress on the slow-moving composite dialogue between the two countries.
“The decision, if implemented, should significantly boost bilateral trade that has increased from $1.8 billion to $2.6 billion since the resumption of commerce secretary-level talks in April 2011.”
An important measure that Pakistan plans to take is to increase the number of items that can be traded through the Wagah-Attari land route from the present 137 to 500. “It represents a major move towards complete normalisation of bilateral trade,” said the daily.
It noted that the two countries have made a lot of progress on trade normalisation in the last three years.
“Yet a number of issues and impediments created by both sides continue to impede the free flow of goods across the border. If Pakistan, for example, is dragging its feet on allowing the free movement of goods via the only land route and resisting containerisation of trade, India is not ready to lower the quality standard barriers that restrict our exports.”
“The two neighbours have also yet to allow free vehicular movement to help business cut costs and delivery time. This is despite the desire of businessmen on both sides for a free-trade regime,” it said.
The daily went on to say that the dismantling of many an impediment in recent years promises a bright future for business and trade relations between the two largest South Asian economies.
“It may take some time but both countries will finally have to accommodate each other’s concerns and agree to trade freely for their own and the region’s prosperity. The good news is that the political leadership on both sides realises this…”
The Dawn said: “The recent visits of (Punjab) Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and prime ministerial adviser Sartaj Aziz to India also focused on improving trade ties with India. Once we are able to pull down the barriers impeding the free flow of trade, progress on other bilateral issues will follow.”