Islamabad: Against the backdrop of a missed deadline for normalising trade relations with India, Pakistan on Friday said the federal cabinet had reiterated its resolve to grant Most Favoured Nation-status to the neighbouring nation.

The cabinet, during its meeting on Thursday, discussed the issue of normalising trade ties and reiterated its earlier resolve of granting MFN-status to India, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said.

Khan was responding to a question at the weekly news briefing on when Pakistan would grant MFN-status to India.

He did not give further details. During the meeting, the cabinet directed the Commerce Ministry to speed up the process for implementing the government's decision to fully normalise trade relations and to grant MFN-status to India.

The Commerce Ministry had also been directed to phase out the negative list regime for trade with India by the end of February, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters. He said the talk of lobbies that opposed the normalisation of trade with India was a thing of the past.

MFN-status would be granted to India "soon", Kaira said without giving details.

During talks between officials and ministers of India and Pakistan last year, it was decided that Islamabad would phase out the negative list regime by December 31 so that MFN-status could be granted at the beginning of the new year.

However, the trade liberalisation process suffered a setback due to intense lobbying by some Pakistani industries towards the end of the past year. Extremist groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Defa-e-Pakistan Council too opposed normalisation of trade ties.

Meanwhile, The News daily quoted its sources as saying that Pakistan would give India MFN-status next week.

The daily reported that the negative list too would be eliminated. The sources said some "sensitive items" would be excluded from trade.

The report said MFN-status could not be granted to India by the deadline of December 31 as the Commerce Ministry was continuing its negotiations with different stakeholders to remove their apprehensions.

India granted Pakistan MFN-status in 1996. Since the two countries resumed their peace process in 2011, they have taken several steps to boost trade relations.

The current negative list allows commerce in all but 1,209 items.

Trade between India and Pakistan is currently worth about USD 2 billion annually and the two sides have said they want to increase this figure to six billion dollars by 2014.


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