India would be granted MFN-status as soon as possible: Pak

Islamabad: Amidst speculation that Pakistan will be unable to meet a January 1 deadline for giving the MFN status to India, the government on Thursday said it is working to complete the trade liberalisation process "as soon as possible".

"The government of Pakistan decided to grant MFN-status to India. This is a process we have initiated. We are still going through internal processes with regard to this and hope to get this through as soon as possible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan told a weekly news briefing at the Foreign Office.

Asked specifically if the Pakistan government would meet its deadline for phasing out a negative list regime for trade by December 31 and giving MFN-status to India by the beginning of the new year, Khan only said the process would be completed "as soon as possible".

Diplomatic sources told PTI that it may take till January 31 next year to complete the process of giving India MFN-status. They said several procedural matters had to be taken care of to complete the process.

Pakistan's cabinet decided earlier this to give India MFN-status by the beginning of the next year.

As part of the trade liberalisation process, Pakistan switched from a positive list regime to a negative list regime for trade, under that allows commerce in all but 1,209 items.

Over the past few weeks, several trade lobbies mounted a concerted campaign in the media to slow down the process to give MFN-status to India.

Powerful players in the automobiles, textiles and pharmaceutical industries were among those who were opposed to trade liberalisation as it could affect their monopolies, sources said.

The campaign by the trade lobbies was also aimed at garnering subsidies from the government ahead of next years general election, the sources said.

A prominent Pakistani businessman with business ties to India, who did not want to be named, said the move to grant India MFN-status could be put off till the polls are completed and a new government is formed in Islamabad next year.