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‘Pakistan sees Lanka as conduit to India’

[Express Buzz, Thursday, 21 July 2011 12:36 No Comment]

In view of the difficulties in directly reaching out to the Indian market, although it is next door, Pakistani businessmen are looking at Sri Lanka as a possible conduit to India, given the island nation’s free trade agreement with India.

President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, Majyd Aziz Balagamwala, has been quoted in the state-owned media here as saying that if India and Pakistan did not want to import anything directly from each other, Sri Lanka could be a conduit.

“It would be advantageous for Pakistan and India rather than importing similar material from a country outside the South Asian region at a higher price,” Balagamwala said.

However, Pakistan-Lanka trade relations have been on a low key, despite the existence of a free trade agreement since 2002.

As on date, Pakistan exports $283 million worth of goods to Lanka, and Lanka exports a mere $54.6 million to Pakistan.

In trying to push bilateral trade, the State Bank of Pakistan had announced a supplier credit of $200 million to Lanka , but details of this are yet to be secured. In November 2010, President Asif Zardari had  proposed barter trade to save foreign exchange, but this also has not taken off.

The possibilities are impressive. Lanka can offer porcelain tableware and kitchen ware, ceramic tiles, furniture, electrical goods, herbal cosmetic products and plastic articles.

And Pakistan can offer, besides textiles and manufactured products, agricultural items like mango and dates. But Lanka prefers to buy these from the West.

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