Pakistan may accord MFN status to India later this month: Rao



New Delhi: Pakistan in "every likelihood" may announce grant of 'Most Favoured Nation' (MFN) status to India before the Annual Partnership Summit later this month.

Pakistan's Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Secretary Munir Qureshi are scheduled to visit India to participate in the three-day Summit in Agra, beginning January 27. Ministers and officials from several countries are also expected to attend the annual summit.

Commerce Secretary S R Rao said there is "every likelihood" that Pakistan will make an announcement "by that time". Rao's comments were in response to a question put by reporters that by when the neighbouring country is expected to accord the much-awaited MFN status to India.

Pakistan has missed the deadline of December 31, 2012, for phasing out the negative list regime, which would technically mean automatic grant of MFN status.

However, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani has yesterday said that certain stakeholders in Pakistan have "some reservations" about giving MFN status to India and the issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting between the sides.

Pakistan in March, 2012 had moved to a negative list regime for trade opening its market for about 7,000 Indian goods against about 2,000 under the positive list.

Under the negative list regime, India cannot export 1,209 items to Pakistan.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had expressed the hope in December last year that Pakistan would honour its assurance of granting MFN status to India.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at about USD 2 billion in 2011-12.

Rao also said that during April-November 2012, Pakistan's exports to India has jumped by about 50 per cent year-on-year.

On the reports that Pakistani has refused to allow trucks from India carrying goods at cross-Line of Control trade point in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, he said: "no, that was closed for some repairs I believe. It stands open as per our information".

He said that all the land customs stations are open and the trade is going as usual.

"Pakistan side there are some infrastructure constraints which they are trying to address," he said adding the Pakistan trade minister and the secretary "has assured us that they will take all possible steps in improving the infrastructure on their side".

"We have close to 60 odd land customs stations across our land border. One minuscule border post was reported to have been closed in Poonch sector, where there was not substantial trade," he added.

PTI