Import of all items through Wagah land to be possible soon

Pakistan will take similar steps over five years while availing the advantage of the concept of bigger and smaller economies.

Lahore: The import of all items through the Wagah land border crossing will be possible "very soon" as the Pakistan government has given an assurance in this regard, Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal has said.

Currently, only 138 items can be imported through Wagha-Attari but this restriction will go very soon, Sabharwal said while addressing the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) yesterday.

Once the restriction is lifted, India will cut down its SAFTA sensitive list by 30 per cent and this list will be further curtailed to only 100 tariff lines by April 2013 while the peak tariff will not be more than five per cent, he said.

Pakistan will take similar steps over five years while availing the advantage of the concept of bigger and smaller economies, he said.

Sabharwal further said Pakistan can import petroleum products and LNG through a short pipeline (of 70 kms) from India.

Referring to Pakistan’s concerns about non-tariff barriers, he said India had been focussing on customs facilitation, laboratories for sampling certification and redressing grievances of the Pakistani business community.

Intra-region trade is very low when compared to the ASEAN and EU regions, Sabharwal said.

"We are doing less than five per cent trade in this region while ASEAN is doing 25 per cent and EU is at 65 percent," he said.

LCCI president Farooq Iftikhar said regular exchanges of delegations will have a positive impact on normalisation of trade and economic relations between Pakistan and India.

"We believe that opening trade with India will present countless opportunities to both countries," he said.

However, Iftikhar said the Pakistani business community is not fully aware of Indian standards and quality parameters which he claimed varied from city to city.

He said the Joint Business Council formed by the governments of Pakistan’s Punjab province and the Indian state of Punjab will facilitate trade and could address these issues with a more practical approach.

Last year, Pakistan’s imports from India were six times higher than its exports, Iftikhar said.

The unfavourable trade balance is not an issue as long as Pakistan can import goods at cheaper rates from India, he said.