NEW DELHI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan has called on India to increase market access for its products and remove non-tariff barriers such as visa regime, while encouraging free flow of investment and goods between the two countries, said local daily The Hindu on Thursday.
In an interview with the newspaper, Pakistan's Minister of State for Commerce and Textiles Khurram Dastgir Khan said Pakistan and India should have a level-playing field and described the visa regime as the biggest non-tariff barrier between them.
The Pakistani minister starts a two-day visit to Indian capital Thursday to attend the South Asian Business Leaders Conclave.
He is expected to meet Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to discuss issues related to the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, non-tariff barriers, operationalizng the three agreements signed between the two countries in 2012 and trade across the Wagah border in northern India, according to the newspaper.
"There is a sense that India, which gave MFN to Pakistan in 1996, did not give it market access. These two go together unfortunately. Pakistan on the other hand might not have given MFN to India but has given substantial market access and this has now been reflected in our trade figures. The trade balance has, in fact, increased manifold in favor of India. Pakistan's exports last year were 327.496 million U.S. dollars while Pakistan's imports from India totaled 1,809.867 million U.S. dollars," he said.
"MFN, as I said, maybe a red herring now -- it distracts us from what is the real issue which is non discriminatory access and as well as a level playing field for both countries," he said.
Asked what are issues that need to be addressed to create a level playing field, the minister said "The very strict visa regime from India is the biggest non-tariff barrier". "This impaired facility of businessmen from both sides who are unable to travel to the other country is the biggest non-tariff barrier. It's true for all people. If these people can travel they can make economic decisions that need to be made, otherwise it makes it difficult for a normal trading relationship to resume, " he said.