Pak-India Businessmen commit to normalizing trade

Islamabad, July 01, 2013: Prominent Businessmen from Pakistan and India made a commitment, Saturday to work among themselves and through their respective governments for normalizing Pakistan India trade. This declaration was made at the concluding session of the 1st meeting of the Pakistan India Joint Business Forum (PIJBF). The Forum which comprises 15 prominent businessmen from each country has been notified by the governments of Pakistan and India. This body has been tasked with identifying the problems faced in cross-border trade and to come up with recommendations for resolving the same.

An Indian delegation led by Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman Hero Corporate Services and comprising of Rajesh Bharti Mittal, Dr. Naresh Trehan, Deepak Amitabh and Vikramjit Sahney met their Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad over the weekend. Bashir Ali Mohammad the Vice Chairman from the Pakistani side while welcoming the Indian delegates cautioned about the very high expectations from the Forum by the various stakeholders. He stated that there were apprehensions in some sectors of the economy in Pakistan that trade normalization would lead to an influx of cheap & subsidized Indian products which would negatively impact the local industry and agriculture. Trade normalization, Bashir Ali Mohammad stated should be a win-win situation for both the economies. Responding to Bashir Ali Mohammad’s opening remarks, Sunil Kant Munjal the Co-Chair of the Forum agreed that trade normalization should be a win-win situation for all and that it was the task of the Forum to create the conditions for this win-win situation to occur. He thanked the governments on both sides of the border for creating the Joint Forum and hoped that the Forum would come up to the expectations of the stakeholders on both sides of the border. Finally he stressed that the consumer welfare element of trade normalization should be the given the priority it deserves.

The PIJBF decided to setup 10 sector specific taskforces comprising of not just members of the Forum but also prominent businessmen / experts from the respective sectors. These taskforces would be required within 60 days of their formation to come up comprehensive recommendations to address the problems being faced by businesses in their respective sectors vis-à-vis bilateral trade. The Forum after detailed discussions agreed to prioritize five sectors i.e. Agriculture & Agri products, Automobile and Engineering, Textiles & Textile Made-ups, Pharmaceutical and Education & Vocational Training. The Pakistani side besides Bashir Ali Mohammad, included, Abdul Razak Dawood, Sikander Mustafa Khan, Nauman Dar, Shabbir Diwan, Dr. Tariq Bucha, Iftikhar A. Malik, Dar, S.M. Muneer, Syed Nadeem Qamar and Noor Muhammad Kasuri. Senior members of the Ministry of Commerce led by the Secretary Commerce, Mr. Munir Qureshi assisted by Robina Akhter Joint Secretary also participated in the meeting along with senior representation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Board of Investment. Gopal Baglay the Deputy High Commissioner and Jayant Khobragade Counselor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad assisted the Indian side. Kamran Y Mirza, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and Samir S. Amir Director Research PBC, along with Supriya Banerjee, Deputy Director General Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Manish Mohan Director South Asia, CII also attended the meeting as both the PBC & the CII are the designated secretariats for the PIJBF.

The members of the PIJBF also called on the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif who assured the Forum of the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to the early normalization of trade between the two countries. He requested the members of the Forum to identify those areas in which progress could be made in the immediate future so as to build trust and support for normalization of trade.

The next meeting of the PIJBF will be held in September in New Delhi at which the taskforces will report back with progress in their respective areas.