Bilateral trade: MFN status a positive development: Indian economist

The Express Tribune, December 04, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s decision to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India will help strengthen bilateral relations through an increase in trade.

Pradeep S Mehta, an economist from Jaipur, India, was also of the view that the recent development would facilitate the resumption of the composite dialogue process, during a lecture on ‘Cost of Non-cooperation in South Asia’ held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday.

Mehta, who is the secretary general of Consumer Unity and Trust Society, one of the largest consumer groups in India, said Pakistan’s reciprocal gesture would help ensure an early execution of various gas pipeline projects such as the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.

“Even though official bilateral trade figures are pegged at slightly less than $400 million, illegal trade between the two countries accounts for $1.5 billion to $2 billion, while informal trade adds another $1 billion,” he said.

“India should consider a formula for preferential tariff and lower non-tariff barriers for Pakistan,” he suggested.Dr Abid Suleri of the SDPI said trade between India and Pakistan should increase to normalise relations and there is a need to turn challenges into opportunities.

Former economic adviser Sakib Sherani said that even though Pakistan neighbours the two fastest growing economies in the world, the opportunity cost in engaging in trade with India is very high. He claimed that Indo-Pak trade could have grown at a significantly high rate if Pakistan had reciprocated the MFN status under its WTO obligations.

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