India and Pakistan 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.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at email@example.com)