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India laying stress to boost up the regional trade

LAHORE: Being fastest growing economy of the region, India has the potential to become a growth opportunity for all its neighbours including Pakistan, says Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal.

This potential could be realised fully if South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc), as a whole, becomes more integrated.

However, sadly, while the Saarc countries have been integrating with the global economy, they remain far less integrated among themselves.The Indian high commissioner was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday.Indian Commercial Consular R K Sharma was also present in the meeting.

Mr Sabharwal said intra-Saarc exports were currently five per cent of the total exports of the region while the percentage was much higher in other regional groupings such as Asean (22 per cent) and NAFTA (52 per cent), adding restrictions on bilateral trade between our two countries were a major factor impeding realisation of the full trade potential of Saarc.

Mr Sabharwal recalled Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s vision of a transformed South Asia where, with the cooperation of all countries of South Asia, the region moved from poverty to prosperity and from ignorance to a knowledge economy.He said India had fulfilled its commitments under the SAFTA by drawing up a sensitive list beyond which all items could be imported from Pakistan and other Saarc countries.

However, he said, Pakistan continued to maintain a positive list of less than 2,000 items

and the import of all the remaining items from India remained banned. He expressed the hope that this situation would change in the interest of expanded trade relations between the two

countries.Referring to Non-Tariff Barriers in India, the High Commissioner said that the reference appeared to be requirements of technical standard certification, standard of quality, sanitary and health regulations.He clarified that such specifications apply to all trading partners of India and are not Pakistan-specific.

Recalling the observations made in the Final Report of the Panel of Economists, appointed by

Pakistan’s Planning Commission, on Medium Term Development Imperatives and Strategy for

Pakistan, he said the report assessed that bilateral trade between the two countries, which

had been currently around $2 billion per annum, had the potential to grow to $10 billion.As a first step, the report recommends moving to an MFN basis and from a positive list approach to a negative list approach.The report also recommends better transportation links between the two countries for trade.The Indian HC said in this regard they were currently building an Integrated Check Post on their side at the Attari-Wagah border at a cost of 1.5 billion Indian rupees and is likely to be completed by the mid of next year.

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