ISLAMABAD – Pakistan and India are likely to sign three pacts on Wednesday (today) that will substantially reduce barriers to bilateral trade. Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim will head the Pakistani side while Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will lead the Indian side in trade talks, which will discuss several issues that are hindering trade between the two sides. Sources in Commerce Ministry told TheNation on Tuesday that both countries would discuss how to remove the non-tariff barriers and ways to enhance the bilateral trade.  Sources further informed that Pakistan and India would also sign three agreements on Wednesday (today). Islamabad and New Delhi will sign a customs cooperation agreement in order to avoid arbitrary stoppage of goods at each other’s ports. Both sides will also sign an agreement regarding acceptance of certificates of internationally accredited laboratories and the third agreement will be aimed at redressing the grievances in case of any disagreement. Pakistan has also finalised a negative list of 636 items with India to be phased out in three stages during the ongoing year 2012 before granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India. Sources further informed that Pakistan and India would also discuss the matter of opening bank branches in the respective countries to enhance the bilateral trade. Another matter of issuing multiple entry visas to the businessmen would also come under discussion between the two sides. Sources further said the Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma was likely to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani after the conclusion of trade talks.

Indian Commerce Minister is currently on three-day visit to Pakistan. He visited Lahore and Karachi and met with different stakeholders. On last day of his visit on Wednesday(today), Sharma will be in Islamabad for formal trade talks with his Pakistani counterpart.

Pakistan and India are likely to sign three pacts Wednesday that will substantially reduce barriers to bilateral trade.

A Pakistan cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad Tuesday, gave the green signal to the pacts.  The agreements will be signed during Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to Islamabad Wednesday, sources said.

Sharma is leading a 120-member business delegation to Pakistan. The minister started his four-day visit Monday.  According to an official statement released by the Pakistani government, the federal cabinet has given its approval to signing of the three agreements.

“The cabinet considered and accorded its approval for signing of cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters agreement, bilateral cooperation agreement on mutual recognition between Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and agreement on redressal of trade grievances between Pakistan and India,” it said.

The customs cooperation agreement has already been okayed by the Indian authorities. It will help avoid arbitrary stoppage of goods at each other’s ports. The other two agreements are yet to be approved by India.

On the first day of his visit, Sharma held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim and agreed to “dismantle all trade barriers”.  The two countries aim to increase bilateral trade to $6 billion in three years from $2.7 billion in 2010-11.

As per a recent study of the industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), bilateral trade between the neighbours can reach $10 billion if trade through third countries like Dubai, Singapore and central Asian nations is channelised into direct exchanges.