Islamabad: Pakistan is working with India to set up a Joint Business Council and expects to increase the bilateral trade to 10 billion dollars, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood has said.

The proposed Pakistan-India Joint Business Council is intended to enhance trade cooperation between the two countries.

The two countries are also working to open 12 entry points along their border, including eight in Punjab province and three in Sindh province, Mehmood said.

Briefing the Standing Committee on Commerce of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament on Thursday, the secretary said: "Pakistan would get more benefits from the normalisation of trade relations between the two countries and it is expected that the trade volume between the two countries would be enhanced to 10 billion dollars.

"The Pakistan government is in touch with India’s Home Ministry to ease visa regulations", he said.

Mehmood said both sides are working closely to iron out differences on the visa regime and that the outcome of these deliberations will be disclosed in a week.

Both countries are also working on opening of bank branches and use of cellular services (roaming facilities) in each others’ territories, Mehmood said.

Talking about the possible impact of opening up trade with India, Mehmood told the Parliamentary panel that Pakistan can invoke protection laws after doing away with negative list regime for India at the end of the year if New Delhi fails to abolish Islamabad-specific non-tariff barriers.

"We have the necessary framework in place if imports from India threaten the local industry and then these laws can be invoked," he said.

Pakistan is already using these laws against friendly countries like China, Turkey and Indonesia on complaints from the domestic industry, he added.

The next round of trade talks with India will be held soon in Pakistan, Mehmood said.

The bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stood at USD 2.7 billion in 2010-11.

Pakistan allows import of only 137 products including livestock, vegetables and newsprints from the Wagah land border crossing.

Pakistan exports to India include fresh and dry fruits, sugar, raw cotton, gems, fish, marbles, onyx, and textiles.

Earlier Pakistan had followed a positive list of trade regime with New Delhi that allowed imports of less than 2,000 items from India.

It recently switched over to a negative list regime with New Delhi (that allows only 137 items, paving the way for the grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status by the end of this year.

India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan way back in 1996.

(Agencies)

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