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No MFN; Pak expands positive list for India

Financial Express, India

No MFN; Pak expands positive list for India

By Arun S

29 September 2006

NEW DELHI, SEPT 28: India on Thursday termed Pakistan’s move to include an additional 302 items in its positive list for trade with India as a ploy to continue to deny the MFN status for India. New Delhi sees this as a clear violation of the Safta pact and would take up the issue in the Safta meet next month.

Pakistan already had a 773 goods-strong positive list for trade with India. Pakistan’s idea of keeping a positive list itself is against the letter and spirit of Safta, minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh told FE over phone from Imphal.The ministry will soon have consultations with the ministry of external affairs and the Prime Minister’s office regarding the next step, Ramesh said. Government sources told FE that India is likely to take up the issue of Pakistan not granting more market access to Indian goods in the next Safta ministerial meeting next month.

Nagesh Kumar, DG, RIS said MFN was in fact the “ground zero,” for any country to negotiate a preferential trade agreement. By denying MFN to India, Islamabad was violating the basic character of such treaties.“Pakistan cannot unilaterally decide on maintaining a positive list with India (which means denial of MFN), as Safta is regional treaty where the decision-making is collective,” Kumar said. While maintaining a positive list for India, Pakistan accords MFN status to other five countries in Safta.

The ministry also sees the development as Pakistan’s efforts to start discussions on the issue during the composite dialogue meetings. Once the new foreign secretary SS Menon takes office, the discussions on the matter is expected to roll, government sources said. However, India will be firm on its stand that Pakistan should do away with the positive list.