'India raising artificial trade barriers'

Wednesday, 24 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: A top Pakistani trade official has defended Islamabad's decision not to grant India the most favoured nation (MFN) status, charging New Delhi with raising artificial trade barriers.

"India may have granted MFN status to Pakistan but the duty structure, the anti-dumping and other barriers being raised by New Delhi are counter-productive," said Sheikh Jamil Mehboob Magoon, vice president of the Federation of Pakistani Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).

"The barriers may not be evident but they are nonetheless there," Magoon told IANS.

For instance, rock salt and molasses, which are in abundance in Pakistani Punjab, cannot be supplied to India via the Wagah border, he said.

"Even though there is a huge demand for these products in Indian Punjab, we are being asked to supply them via steamer from Karachi - making the export unviable," the official said.

Magoon, who is also the vice president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will raise these issues during his meeting with India's commerce minister.

He arrived here ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's two-day visit, and is expected to stay until the weekend to finalise a 'Made in India' show being organised in March in Lahore by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Early this year, FPCCI had held a 'Made in Pakistan' show here in association with FICCI and is participating in great strength at the ongoing India International Trade Fair.

"We are willing to accord a big brother status to India and take more products from here, but would like India also to reciprocate and source more products from Pakistan," he said.

Magoon said official trade was just a minuscule part of the bilateral business, most of which was carried out through illegal channels and third countries.

He blamed this in part on continuing trade obstacles from both sides. "While we are willing to source more products from India, there are serious visa issues. Our businessmen still don't get visas easily," said Magoon.

"It took over a month for some of the exhibitors here (at the trade fair) to get their visas processed. Common businessmen find it even more difficult. And this is true of both sides."

But despite the problems, Magoon is optimistic that "trade diplomacy is the only route to regional prosperity and goodwill".

Indian exports to Pakistan have registered an impressive growth in recent years, almost doubling from $144.01 million in 2001-02 to $286.94 million last fiscal.

India's imports, on the other hand, dropped from $68.21 million in 2001-02 to $44.85 million in 2002-03, but rose to $57.65 million last fiscal.

Source: IANS
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