Islamabad: Pakistan has delayed the grant of Most Favoured Nation-status to India along with abolition of a negative trade list regime "for a short time" because of reservations expressed by several industries, Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim has said.
"The process of (phasing out) the negative list and granting MFN-status has been delayed for a short time. The reason for the delay was reservations of various industries about protecting the interest of local manufacturers," Fahim said.
Fahim said the decision to delay the phasing out of the negative list and the grant of MFN-status was made after he had discussed the issue with his Indian counterpart.
"I talked to Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on the issue and he understands the issue and agreed to the delay for a short time," he said.
The Pakistan government is taking steps to address the reservations expressed by some domestic industries over the grant of MFN-status to India, Fahim told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry over the weekend.
Fahim said he could not give a fresh date for granting MFN-status to India.
A final decision would be made by the cabinet, he said.
Pakistan had earlier said it would phase out the negative list regime by December 31, paving the way for MFN-status to be granted by the New Year.
The negative list allows commerce in all but 1209 items.
Islamabad had earlier missed another deadline for removing restrictions on trade through the land route before end of October, 2012.
During talks held in Islamabad in September, the two sides had agreed that Pakistan would remove all restrictions on trade by the Wagah-Attari land route before the end of October.
Following this, the Indian side would have brought down its SAFTA sensitive list by 30 percent before December while keeping in view Pakistan’s export interests.
The Pakistan government has reportedly delayed the grant of MFN-status to India due to intense lobbying by the agricultural, pharmaceutical and automobile sectors.
Right wing and extremist groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Defa-e-Pakistan Council too have opposed the trade liberalisation measures.
However, Fahim contended that the government was not acting under pressure.
"(MFN) is a WTO obligation and Pakistan has to grant the status for enhancing trade.It has nothing to do with (upcoming) elections," he said.
The Indian side has expressed concern over Pakistan missing deadlines for trade liberalisation measures.
Earlier this month, Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal had stressed the need for Pakistan to deliver on commitments mentioned in the joint statement issued after talks between the Commerce Secretaries in September.
Trade between India and Pakistan is currently worth about USD 2 billion annually and the two sides have said they want to increase this figure to six billion dollars by 2014.
First Published: Monday, December 31, 2012, 19:29