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Pakistan uncertain on SAFTA

United Press International

Pakistan uncertain on SAFTA

27 March 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 27 (UPI) — Pakistan remains unsure of India’s role in the South Asian Free Trade Agreement as bilateral economic cooperation talks begin Monday.

"Bilateral trade would continue to be guided by the positive-negative lists," said Humayun Akhtar Khan, Pakistan’s commerce minister.

Khan said India and Pakistan would have to wait for a resolution of the Kashmir issue before full-fledged commercial relations could be established. India has suggested a free trade agreement with Pakistan, which has not yet responded.

Indian Commerce Secretary S.M. Menon and his Pakistani counterpart, Syed Asif Shah, are leading their delegations in the three-day talks. They mark the third round of talks between the two nuclear powers.

Last week the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation secretariat in Katmandu confirmed that all seven members of the grouping have given assent to SAFTA, adopted at the Islamabad summit in January 2004.

The agreement will be implemented from July 1, 2006, but a news report said doubts linger on the intent of Pakistan in extending SAFTA to India.

Pakistan has long been complaining of a continued negative trade balance with India because of non-tariff barriers since the revival of composite dialogue in 2004.

New Delhi had promised to look into the issue, and said some progress could be made on the matter during the third round of bilateral talks.