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India looks to new Govt. in Pak to implement SAFTA

The Hindu

India looks to new Govt. in Pak to implement SAFTA

4 March 2008

New Delhi (PTI): India on Monday exuded confidence that the new government in Islamabad will take immediate steps to implement the South Asian Free Trade Agreement with New Delhi and take necessary measures, including duty changes, to facilitate trade.

"We are looking toward the new government in Pakistan to take more positive steps in fulfilling the agreement in SAFTA, which it has acceded to but not implemented. We are looking at the new administration in Pakistan to look at this positively because it is an advantageous situation for them," Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters here after the third meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council.

Pakistan, a signatory of SAFTA, has maintained that with India it will implement the agreement only in line with its existing bilateral trade policy. Currently Pakistan’s trade with India is restricted to about 1076 items. India wants the neighbouring country to implement SAFTA in ’true letter and spirit’.

Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Shah said his country has been looking at ways of expanding trade within SAARC and SAFTA member countries, including with India.

"We believe in consistency and continuity of policies in Pakistan and as and when the new government comes in, which would be very soon, they will get their briefings and position papers and then move on from there," Shah said. Pakistan’s perspective on SAFTA has always been positive, he added.

"We are extremely happy with the way SAFTA is progressing and are looking at technical and institutional hiccups if any in order to move it forward. There are no mental blocks any more, no theoretical blocks," he said adding that issues of connectivity and infrastructure needs to be addressed.