India, Pakistan sign three agreements in Islamabad to bolster bilateral trade
Islamabad, Sep 21 (ANI): India and Pakistan on Friday signed three agreements, including a trade grievances agreement, a mutual recognition agreement and a customs cooperation agreement, to bolster existing bilateral trade mechanisms.
The agreements were signed during the seventh round of talks on commercial and economic cooperation between the Commerce Secretaries of the two Asian neighbours.
"Both sides expressed satisfaction on signing of the three agreements i.e. Redressal of trade grievances agreement, Mutual Recognition Agreement and Customs Cooperation Agreement and directed the relevant authorities to frame rules and procedures to fully implement these agreements. These agreements are expected to substantially facilitate bilateral trade mechanisms," a joint statement issued after the seventh round of India-Pakistan talks on commercial and economic cooperation between Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan held at Islamabad on September 20 and 21, said.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress made in the bilateral trade relationship since last round of talks held in New Delhi in November 2011.
Indian Commerce Secretary S.R Rao and his Pakistani counterpart Munir Qureshi also expressed satisfaction over the inauguration of the new Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari, an event that was attended by the Commerce Ministers of the two countries and the Chief Ministers of East and West Punjab.
"Commerce Secretaries appreciated that better trading opportunities provided through land route would enhance mutual prosperity of the business communities and consumers of both sides of the border. They however, noted that there is need to further strengthen infrastructure on both sides. They directed the customs and the port authorities to resolve all the issues through mutual cooperation, harmonization of customs procedures, provision of laboratory facilities, scanners, weigh bridges, cold houses, containerized services and automation of the business processes," the joint statement said.
"For this purpose, meetings of the Customs Liason Border Committee would be held on monthly basis. CLBC would also explore the possibilities of organizing meetings between the relevant importers and exporters at Wagah-Attari border. It was decided that this Land Customs Station would operate seven days a week," it added.
The need for more trade traffic to be carried through the Railways was emphasized during the talks.
"For this purpose, it was agreed that the Railway Ministries would hold joint coordination meetings on a monthly basis, at the appropriate levels. Issues on availability of sufficient number of rakes for interchange was also highlighted by the Pakistan Railways. It was noted that the earlier agreed provision of 3-4 interchanges a day has not been adhered to due to current trade patterns," the joint statement said.
"A viable solution is to allow High Capacity Wagons (HCW) from Pakistan which carry three times more load than the regular wagons. The Indian Railways agreed that specifications already provided by the Pakistan Railways for HCW would be examined and conveyed accordingly within two months," it added.
On exploring the possibilities of opening new land routes for trade, Pakistan side informed that a working group on Munabhao-Khokhrapar has been constituted.
"Indian side has already conveyed constitution of working group. It was agreed that meeting of the JWG on Munabhao-Khokhrapar would be held in the fourth week of October, 2012 at New Delhi," the joint statement said.
Both sides appreciated the recent signing of the new liberalized bilateral visa regime, which fulfils a long pending demand of the business communities of both sides to ensure a better enabling environment for bilateral trade.
The Pakistan side also appreciated the recent measures, which have been taken by India to remove its earlier restrictions on inbound and outbound investments to Pakistan.
The Pakistan side expressed appreciation of the steps taken by India to reduce its SAFTA sensitive list by 30 percent from 878 tariff lines to 614 tariff lines as agreed earlier during the sixth round of talks.
"The Indian side explained that out of 264 tariff lines which have been removed from India's SAFTA sensitive list, 155 tariff lines pertain to agricultural commodities and 106 tariff lines relate to textile items. To further deepen the preferential arrangements under SAFTA and to provide level playing field to Pakistani exporters in comparison to concessions allowed by India under SAFTA to rest of the countries in the SAARC region, both sides developed a long term plan," the joint statement said.
Pakistan would transition fully to MFN (non discriminatory) status for India by December 2012 as agreed earlier.
The Commerce Secretaries also reviewed the progress on other issues such as enhanced trade for petroleum products, trade in power and reciprocal opening of Bank branches.
The two sides noted with satisfaction the business-to-business contact, which is steadily growing between both countries. Chambers of Commerce on either side have been supporting business delegations and trade issues in each other's countries. (ANI)
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