LAHORE - The Indian High Commissioner Sharat Shabharwal has said that all items would be importable through Wagha Border very soon as the government of Pakistan has given an assurance to this regard.

The High Commissioner was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. HE said that presently only 138 items can be imported through Wagha-Attari land route but this restriction will go very soon.

Shabharwal said that once the restriction is lifted, the India will cut down its SAFTA Sensitive list by 30 per cent and by April 2013 this sensitive would be curtailed to only 100 tariff lines and the peak tariff will not be more than 5 per cent when the trade between two countries will be normalized by next calendar year. He said that Pakistan would be doing so in five years time availing the advantage of bigger and smaller economy concept.

The High Commissioner said that Pakistan can import Petroleum products besides having LNG through a very short pipeline. Over the issue of Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs), Sharat Shabharwal said that on the identification of government of Pakistan, India focused on Customs facilitation, Laboratories for sampling certification and redressal of grievances of business community. He said that intra-region trade is very low as compared to ASEAN and EU. We are doing less than five percent trade in this region while ASEAN are doing 25 per cent and EU is at 65 percent. The High Commissioner said that Pakistan and India should move in a manner to create a win-win situation for the stakeholders in two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said that regular exchange of delegations will positively impact the normalization of trade and economic relations between Pakistan & India. He said the potential gains from increased economic integration are large whereas the trade between the two countries is unnaturally small.

“We believe that opening trade with India will present countless opportunities to both the countries.” The LCCI President again invited the attention of the High Commissioner towards the non-tariff barriers that are creating enormous problems for Pakistani exporters. The earliest removal of Non Tariff Barriers will largely consolidate the efforts. Farooq Iftikhar said that the business community is mostly not fully aware of Indian standards and quality parameters which also vary from city to city. He said that those are needed to be brought to the limelight for the larger interests of trade and industry.

The LCCI President said that it takes much more than routine time while clearing shipments exported to India from Pakistan while there are complaints about banishment of export shipments from Indian territory for not been able to fulfill all the conditions of Indian authorities. It includes various permits, phyto-sanitary certificates, licensing requirement, NOCs, lab testing reports, health and safety regulations and many more.

The LCCI President said that Joint Business Council formed by the Governments of Punjab and government of Indian Punjab will not only facilitate Pak-India trade but can also address these issues with more practical approach.

Last year, our imports from India were almost six times more than our exports.  The unfavourable trade balance with India is not an issue as long as, we can import goods at cheaper rates from India other than the rest of the world. We consider India as a big market for Pakistani products as well.

The LCCI President also proposed that both Pakistan and India should open Consulate offices in Lahore and Amritsar respectively for speeding up the process of visa endorsement.

Due to tight visa policy, the direct trade between India and Pakistan has remained undersized and averaging around US$ 2 billion over the past 3 years.

The LCCI President said that annual trade between India and Pakistan through irregular channels like Dubai, Singapore and etc. ranges around 3-4 billion dollars.