Islamabad: The Pakistan government will approach India to seek the removal of non-tariff barriers so that bilateral trade relations can be normalised in "real terms", Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood has said.

Mahmood made the remark during an interaction with businessmen in the financial hub of Karachi in the wake of the Pakistan government’s decision to switch over to a negative list regime for trade with India.

Addressing a meeting hosted by the India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mahmood said the government has approved a negative list with 1,209 items.    This will allow trade in all other goods, barring these items.

Trade between the two countries is currently conducted under a positive list regime, which allows the import of only about 1,960 Indian items.

Eventually, Pakistan plans to phase out the negative list of 1,209 items by the end of the year, paving the way for giving India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status.

Pakistani authorities have often called on India to phase out what they perceive as non-tariff barriers.

The Indian government has said that its trade measures are not Pakistan-specific and apply to all countries.

Following several rounds of talks between the Commerce Ministers, the two countries have taken several steps to normalise trade relations.

Mahmood said the decision to grant MFN-status to India was made after several meetings with the business community and that almost all in the fraternity favoured this move.

He said he was hopeful that Pakistani industries would be ready to compete with their Indian counterparts in the next 10 months.

Trade Development Authority of Pakistan Chief Executive Tariq Iqbal Puri said the normalisation of trade with India would be a major breakthrough in boosting regional trade.

He hoped Pakistani exporters would be able to penetrate the Indian market.

(Agencies)