ISLAMABAD - Board of Investment Chairman Dr Miftah Ismail on Wednesday said that the government would curtail the negative list of trade items (1209 items) with India and would keep only 100 items in the sensitive list, on which additional duty would be imposed.

Newly appointed chairman of Board of Investment told the reporters that Pakistan and India are now holding talks for ‘Non-discriminatory reciprocal access’ to each country instead of most favoured nation (MFN) status. “Indian investors are not allowed to invest in Pakistan, as they only trade in goods”, he maintained. He said that Pakistan and India are not signing any bilateral investment treaty. Our first priority is to compete with India, as Pakistan’s exports to New Delhi stood at $400-500 million against imports of $2 billion. “We can compete well with India if they provide level playing field to Pakistan”.

Talking about much delayed Pak-US bilateral investment treaty, chairman Board of Investment said; “Government is trying to take all stakeholders on board to make it an effective agreement, as some of the stakeholders have reservations on it, which will be removed”. The government is also holding talks with private sector regarding Pak-US bilateral investment treaty, he added.

Dr Miftah Ismail said that government has target to bring $18 billion investment (local and foreign) in next five years, as it has planned to increase investment to $48 billion (20 percent of the GDP) from existing $30 billion (12 percent of the GDP). He said that foreign investors from China, Turkey, Russia, Japan and European Union are approaching Pakistan for investment. However, he was of the view that Pakistanis should come first to invest in their country so that other foreign investors could follow them, he added. Talking about GSP plus status given by EU, chairman Board of Investment said that outcomes of the status would start from next year 2015, as in the current year exporters have already made contracts mostly in United States market.

Dr Miftah Ismail admitted the foreign companies are asking the government for relaxation in PEPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules for investment in Pakistan. He informed that government has constituted a committee to review the matter of PEPRA rules, adding that committee had not finalized its recommendations yet. He was of the view that government should give relaxation in PEPRA rules for energy related projects.

The newly appointed chairman Board of Investment vowed to improve Pakistan’s raking to 80 from existing 110, as carried out by ‘doing business’. Economies are ranked on their ease of doing business, from 1 - 189. A high ranking on the ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. Similarly, the ranking of global competitiveness would be improved to 100 from existing 133, he added.  Dr Miftah Ismail said that incumbent government has planned to increase GDP growth to 6 per cent, which would help in absorbing youth in labour force. The GDP growth remained at 5 percent during first quarter (July-September) of the ongoing financial year 2013-2014.