No discussion yet to withdraw MFN status to Pakistan: Nirmala Siatharaman

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The government has so far not discussed the issue of withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.

India, she said, had extended the MFN status to Pakistan as a “goodwill gesture” way back in 1996 but unfortunately the neighbouring country has not yet extended the same to New Delhi.

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“On the issue of the withdrawal of MFN from Pakistan, strictly speaking, that has not yet been discussed,” she told reporters here.

The decision to withdraw the status or not will have to be taken by the government and “I cannot comment on that”, she added.

Last month, government had decided to review the MFN status given to Pakistan at a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the meeting was postponed.

The review decision was taken in the wake of the Uri attack.

India also considered the option of dragging Pakistan to WTO over non-extension of the status.

The neighbouring country has missed its own deadline of December 2012 for giving India this tag.

As per the global trade norms, member countries of the WTO are required to give non-discriminatory market access as part of the MFN status to each other.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 2.61 billion in 2015-16.

Talking about increasing imports from China, the minister said there is no instrument to completely stop imports from one country.

It is impossible to completely ban imports from one country, she added.

“But if one wants to restrict the imports because that country is giving more subsidy or on quality issue, then we have instruments like we can impose anti-dumping duties or safeguard measures,” she added.

India has time and again raised the issue of widening trade deficit with China.

In her meeting with Chinese Vice Minister for Finance and Commerce Wang Shouwen, Sitharaman has asked for providing greater market access for Indian products there.

China has assured India that it will act on the concerns expressed by India.

In 2015-16, India’s exports to China were USD 9 billion, while imports were USD 61.7 billion, leaving a huge trade deficit of USD 52.7 billion.

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