Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Thursday decided to explore the possibility of a preferential trade agreement (PTA), even as both countries agreed to boost cooperation in areas ranging from transfer of electricity, export of petroleum goods and trade in Bt cotton seeds.

The two-day meeting of commerce secretaries ended here on Thursday, which was the fifth round of talks on commercial and economic cooperation between the two South Asian neighbours. The Indian delegation was led by Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar, while the Pakistani side was led by his counterpart, Zafar Mahmood.

"Both sides expressed the intent to explore the possibility of entering into a mutually agreed preferential trade agreement to further promote bilateral trade by extending tariff concessions on products of export interest to both countries," said the agreed minutes of the talks released here.

Interestingly, Pakistan has for the first time "recognised that grant of Most Favoured Nation status to India would help in expanding the bilateral trade relation". "Both sides also agreed to remove the NTBs (Non Tariff Barriers) and all other restrictive practices which hamper bilateral trade," it said.

Pakistan said that it will take steps to replace the current 'Positive list' with a 'Negtive' list, to bring in a non-discriminatory trade regime, by October 2011.

Besides, two group of experts will be set up to examine the feasibility and expansion of trade in electricity and petroleum products.

A new initiative was also agreed to promote bilateral trade in Bt cotton seeds. "This would help Pakistan's farmers and its textile industry by significantly raising cotton yields and ensuring better cotton security," said the statement.

There was also decision to cooperate in the information technology sector, by encouraging the private sector.

There was also understanding on increasing trade through Wagah-Attari border by increasing trading hours, expeditiously clearing cardo and facilitating movement of large vehicles and containerised traffic.

Pakistan also agreed to remove restrictions on trade by land route by October 2011.
(Agencies)