Pakistani businessmen excited by MFN

New Delhi : More than 70 Pakistani businessmen who are at the annual India International Trade Fair (IITF) say the granting of most favoured nation (MFN) status to India will not only boost their economy but also drive down the prices of essentials.

“There is a lot of optimism in Pakistan about granting of MFN status to India. The business and industry establishments have all welcomed the move,” Nasir ud din Sheikh, Pakistan pavilion director and chairman, standing committee on fairs and exhibitions of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said .

According to Sheikh, MFN status on both the sides will help in not only promoting trade but also removing restrictions such as visa and freight barriers.

“Our trade lacks growth because of barriers like visa, freight restrictions through the border post. The status on both sides would provide a push to remove these restrictions,” Sheikh said.

India-Pakistan trade is logged at $2.5 billion in 2010-11 and the two countries are targeting to double this in the next five years.

The Pakistani cabinet decided to grant MFN status to India Nov 2, 15 years after India gave Pakistan a similar status.

Pakistan will now treat India on a par with its other favoured trading partners and loosen import restrictions on goods from the neighbouring country. At present, Islamabad allows the import of only 1,946 items from New Delhi. India does not permit trade in 850 items with Pakistan.

Sheikh said with MFN status, businessmen from both countries would also get the additional benefits of multiple entry-visa and easy freight movements, but added that credit should also be made available and red-tape should be reduced.

He said raw materials like cement, cotton and perishable food items would also come which would help in easing the effects of inflation in India.

“Earlier you had a shortfall of onions that came from Pakistan, this time we have a shortfall of red chillies that is coming from India. We have a surplus of cement and cotton that we can sell to India at the cheapest prices in comparison to anywhere in the world. So this (MFN) is good for all,” Sheikh said.

On India’s side, Sheikh said products from big Indian companies across the sectors, especially the ones in services, steel and electricity, would find a readymade market in Pakistan.

“We get a lot of expensive products due to freight that we have to pay to import; Indian products, by virtue of us being neighbours, would also be cheaper. You have an established industrial base here,” Sheikh added.

The 31st edition of the annual IITF opened Monday attracting 6,000 exhibitors and an expected 1.5 million visitors during the 14-day event which ends Nov 27.

Many in the Pakistani delegation said there was optimism in the business community over the MFN move.

“I have been coming to the IITF since 1998 and always dreamt of a day when I can sell my products at competitive rates,” said Sayyada Dhanji, partner in the textile firm Mars Hoor Gallery.

“Everything from Pakistan sells well here, but now with MFN I do not need to wait for IITF every year — I am ready to sell throughout the year in India,” Dhanji said.

The Karachi-based businesswomen said she gets nearly 60 percent of her sales from India despite restrictive import duties.

“I have a base of 98 customers here, who place order after order. Crepe, cotton and lawn textiles with Pakistani embroidery and craftsmanship sell like anything in India,” Dhanji added.

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