'Indo-Pak annual trade potential is $ 15 billion'
200 Indian exhibitors are participating in the three-day India Show organised at the Lahore Expo Centre.
Lahore: India and Pakistan have the potential to boost bilateral trade to $ 15 billion a year, High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal said on Saturday at the inauguration of the largest ever India-specific trade exhibition in Pakistan.
Close to 200 Indian exhibitors are participating in the three-day India Show organised at the Lahore Expo Centre.
A wide array of products, ranging from gems to heavy machinery, is being showcased at the exhibition that was formally opened by Pakistan's Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
Sabharwal urged businessmen from both countries to explore opportunities to boost trade, and said the two countries had potential to boost bilateral trade to $ 15 billion a year.
India is a growing economy and other countries of the region too should benefit from its growth, he said.
"We should have trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of our people," he added.
Commerce Minister Fahim highlighted the need to improve trade between the two countries.
"Prices of medicines in India are cheap and we should benefit from things like that," he said while allaying fears that steps to increase trade with India would kill Pakistani industries.
Fahim said Pakistani traders had raised some issues related to India's visa regime and customs regulations and these should be resolved on a priority basis.
The exhibition was inaugurated two days ahead of Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's visit to Pakistan with a large business delegation for talks aimed at normalising trade relations between the two countries.
Sharma will enter Pakistan through the Wagah land border on February 13 and join the closing ceremony for the exhibition the same day.
During his three-day visit, Sharma will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart and other tops leaders and interact with captains of Pakistani industry in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
He will also participate in a meeting of commerce ministers of SAARC countries on February 16.
Sharma's visit is being billed as an opportunity to help break barriers that have hampered trade between the two largest South Asian economies.
The visit is a sequel to Commerce Secretary-level talks that resumed in April last year after a suspension of over three year following the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.
The Commerce Secretary-level talks have already led to the approval of several steps by both countries to dismantle hurdles in the way of increasing official trade to $ six billion by 2014.
Direct trade between India and Pakistan constitutes less than one per cent of their respective global trade. India exported goods worth $ 2.33 billion to Pakistan last year while its imports were a mere $ 330 million.
Islamabad is currently in the process of switching from a positive list regime to a negative list regime and the Pakistan government has said it intends to give India Most Favoured Nation-status by the end of the year.
Pakistan has called on India to remove what it describes as non-tariff barriers. India has clarified that its regulations are not Pakistan-specific though it is willing to address the issues raised by Pakistani traders.
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