Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nation status in line with South Asian Free Trade Area protocol: Anand Sharma

Islamabad: Visiting Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma says Pakistan’s in principle decision to grant India Most Favoured Nation MFN status for trade is in line with protocol of South Asian Free Trade Area SAFTA agreement.

Talking to newsmen, he said India has always been willing to be initiator of this positive approach. “We are in favour of SAFTA protocols to be honoured by all SAFTA members. Pakistan, after they have embraced MFN, would be moving in that direction and definitely, there will be not only reciprocity. But India has always been asymmetrical in its approach. We have unilaterally taken steps and once what has been assured is notified, India will be very positive in its approach,” Sharma added.

He said in context of agreements such as SAFTA, bigger picture was important in order to gain understanding of evolving trading atmosphere in the region. “You see, we have to look at overall picture, that what is intensity of engagement, and what India has been able to contribute vis-a-vis Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka. Then we are talking of LDCs least developed countries, taking in our embrace Afghanistan. So you always need to look at larger picture, also what we are doing with Pakistan.”

Sharma’s comments were echoed by Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar, who said India’s position with respect to SAFTA had evolved in a positive direction over the years. “For those who’ve been following what’s happening on SAFTA, first India moved to zero duty for LDCs in 2006. Then in November last year, Indian Prime Minister announced a huge improvement, which was basically dismantling the sensitive list altogether,” he said.

SAFTA signed on January 6, 2004, envisioned gradual elimination of most tariffs and trade barriers on products, services passing between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Sri Lanka.

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