Pakistani exporters, businessmen want there should not be any Non-Tariff Barriers by India

New Delhi: Visiting Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh told Indian Business Standard newspaper that there should “not be any Non-Tariff Barriers NTBs for any specific country in order to promote trade ties with it.”

Q&A: You complained (during your address to FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry Tuesday in Delhi) about some of Pakistan- specific NTBs (non-tariff barriers) your exporters and businessmen face. Can you substantiate?

“I have been told about NTBs by my exporters and businessmen. What we want is this: There should not be any NTBs for any specific country in order to promote trade ties with it. Sooner NTBs are removed, better it will be for trade ties. Our business community is sometimes not aware of strict Indian standards. They spend a lot of time in obtaining certificates by doing necessary paperwork, but still fail in conforming to laws. I have been told by FICCI that NTBs have been removed. If it is so, then we welcome it. We only require a win-win situation for both of us.”

Last month during his visit to India, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood said Pakistan would be officially granting most favoured nation MFN status to India once you phase out positive and negative lists. However, not many Pakistani businessmen want the status to be given to India. What is current status?

“Yes, our country has some sectors that have made serious reservations on giving India an MFN status. At same time, what we have been told is that India too has some particular sectors that have same sort of a reservation on the matter. I personally think we must move trade forward without discussing impediments. Let us keep those sectors in negative list and move forward. In later stages, we would review their position. MFN would soon become reality. I am optimistic we would see a win-win scenario by next year. MFN remains a guiding force for all our trade-related interactions,” Irfan Sheikh said.

In your address to FICCI, you highlighted need for seamless mobile phone connectivity. Can you elaborate?

“I have been highlighting it for a long time now. Unless and until businessmen and exporters on both sides are not connected, there is no point in opening borders. You cannot even make a simple call! This is basic that can be done if we were to open trade. This must be done as early as possible. India can start with a handful of places in Pakistan and then gradually expand. We should also do the same. This is vital to opening up the hearts.”

India is planning to initially allow multiple-entry visa to Pakistani businessmen for a period of two years. What is LCCI’s reaction to this?

“Visas would be expanded to bona fide citizens of both countries for business. Face-to-face interaction and physical presence are a must to boost trade. I have been told that this has been allowed for an initial period of two years. This will also unleash untapped potential of trade between both sides. It would also address problem of trade through informal routes.”

What is LCCI doing to address trade that is taking place through indirect channels?

“Bilateral trade had been averaging around $1.7 billion till past three years. It can be scaled to $8-10 billion in two years. Trade through irregular channels like Dubai & Singapore has reached $3 billion yearly. We are seeing how we can restrict and minimize this, with opening up of our borders with Pakistan. As soon as we allow MFN to India through our National Assembly, definitely there will be an increase in direct trade,” LCCI President was quoted as saying.

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