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    India-Pakistan commerce secretaries likely to meet in September

    Synopsis

    India will also propose allowing more flights to-and-fro connecting the two capitals and linking capitals to important cities.

    NEW DELHI: Commerce secretaries from India and Pakistan are likely to resume trade talks in mid-September where New Delhi will take stock of Islamabad’s plans of dismantling the negative list of goods banned from India and granting it the most favoured nation or MFN status by the year-end.

    India will also propose allowing more flights to-and-fro connecting the two capitals and linking capitals to important cities.

    "The two countries have tentatively agreed to hold the commerce secretaries meeting next month after the meeting of external affairs ministers," a government official said.

    The finance ministry is expected to notify the Cabinet decision of bringing down import duties on 264 items imported from Pakistan that includes 155 farm products, 106 textile products and 3 petroleum products in a week’s time. This would ensure gradual reduction of duties on these products over three years.

    Further reduction of the sensitive list for Pakistan under the regional free trade agreement, which still includes 614 items, will be considered only after Pakistan dismantles its negative list of goods, allows more items to be traded through the land route and is ready to bring down its sensitive list for India under Safta as well, the official added.

    Islamabad has not taken any steps for progressive reduction of the negative list of 1123 products of banned products that it had initially promised to do with the aim of dismantling it completely the year-end.

    "While the country had initially agreed that it would bring down the negative list of items, it has not taken any steps towards the direction so far as it later linked the dismantling to further negotiations. This meeting will give us the opportunity to see what is on their mind," the official said.

    India is, nonetheless, hopeful that Pakistan will stick to its promise of extending it the MFN status by the end of the year.

    The visa agreement between two countries that would liberalise bilaeral business visa regime is likely to be signed soon when the Pakistani interior affairs minister and the Indian home minister meet. The two sides are also ready to consider applications from banks to set up branches in each other’s country, the official added.

    The commerce secretaries’ meeting will take place with a delay of four months as some sections in the Pakistani government wanted trade talks to keep pace with talks in other areas such as the conflicts over Sir Creek and Siachen.
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