India, Pakistan to facilitate trade by opening bank branches
India and Pakistan Saturday decided to take a few more steps by the end of next month to normalise trade. This includes opening of bank branches in each other's country.
After talks here, trade ministers of the two countries agreed also to facilitate commerce over land by keeping the Attari-Wagha border open 24 hours throughout the year.
"Central banks of the two countries in principle have agreed to give banking licences to banks nominated by respective governments," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said at a joint press conference with Khurram Dastagir Khan, Pakistan's commerce minister.
Earlier reports said the two neighbours were working on allowing three banks to set up branches on each others' soil to help improve business relations.
The talks which took place after a gap of 16 months, however, did not yield Pakistan formally according the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.
Both Ministers voiced the commitment of their governments to provide what they called Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to each nation's goods and services to establish normal trading.
"Let us not (get) stranded on nomenclature," said the Pakistan minister when asked about MFN.
The ministerial meeting was held on the margin of the SAARC Business Leaders Conclave, which was preceded by consultations at the level of the Secretaries Commerce of the two countries.
The Ministers emphasized the importance of trade facilitation and directed their ministries to work out modalities for containerization of cargo, allowing all tradeable items by land route at Wagah and liberalization of business visa regime.
"For a robust economic relation to develop, businessmen of both sides need to visit each other's country. (There is) need for further liberalisation of visa regime," said Sharma.
Both sides agreed to convene the meetings of the technical working groups of customs, railways, banking, standards organizations and energy to devise the modalities for effective implementation of all requisite measures.
To increase trade opportunities, industry chamber FICCI and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan will hold an "India Show" in Lahore in mid-February.
A joint Vintage Car Rally between Amritsar and Lahore will also be held coinciding with the Show.
The Joint Business Forum will hold its third meeting in Pakistan by mid-February, 2014.
(Posted on 18-01-2014)