Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday said it cannot grant Most Favoured Nation-status to India before the reservations of all stakeholders are removed while pointing out that it was a "work in progress" and that a final decision is yet to be taken. The remarks were made by Minister of State for Commerce Abbas Khan Afridi during the question hour in the Senate or upper house of parliament. He said "work was in progress" to grant MFN-status to India though a final decision will be made only after talking to all stakeholders and "prioritising the country's interests".
The consent of all stakeholders will be sought before granting MFN-status to India, Afridi said. He did not specify when the process is likely to be completed. Pakistan has already missed a December 31 deadline to end a negative list regime for trade and give MFN-status to India. Since then, several federal ministers have said that the move to grant MFN-status has been delayed so that the government can hold consultations with industries that have expressed reservations about the move.
Afridi told the Senate that the federal cabinet had given its approval for moving to a negative list regime for trade with India. The phasing out of the negative list regime is subject to the "provision of a level playing field to Pakistani exporters", he said. The Commerce Ministry notified the negative list on March 20, 2012.
Since then, several steps have been taken by Pakistan to ensure a level playing field before giving MFN-status to India, Afridi said. India and Pakistan have taken several steps to normalise trade relations since they resumed their peace process in 2011 after a gap of over two years in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. During recent talks, the two sides agreed to increase bilateral trade from the current level of about two billion dollars to six billion dollars by 2014.