December 13, 2012
Farmers on Wednesday rejected the government’s decision to grant Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and threatened to physically block Indian imports at Wagha border unless the government reviewed its decision to phase out negative list to be implemented from January. The Commerce Ministry is set to submit a summary to the Federal Cabinet on normalisation of trade with India and phasing out of the negative list.
Acting Secretary Commerce Munir Qureshi is expected to visit Wahgha border on Thursday (today) to check arrangements made by both Pakistan and India for free movement of goods. According to the agreement, in the first phase, India had promised to reduce Safta sensitive list by 30 per cent before October this year, in lieu of opening of Wagha border. In the second phase, India was to reduce Safta sensitive list by an additional 30 per cent by November this year after which Pakistan would be required to phase out negative list by December 31 this year. India has to eliminate entire sensitive list in five years. However, both Pakistan and India have not yet implemented the agreement in letter and spirit.
Representatives of farmers from three provinces have made it clear that trade liberalisation of agriculture products was unacceptable as Indian farmers were getting massive subsidies. “We have requested the Commerce Ministry to exclude agriculture products from the list, otherwise farmers will come on the roads,” he added.
Farmers also said that any anti-farmer move wiould cost the government heavily in general elections. President of Basmati Growers Association Chaudhry Hamid Malhi told Business Recorder that agriculture community had not been taken into confidence prior to the agreement with India.
“Farmers are not against trade with India but expect to be protected against the highly subsidised agriculture products of India. On average, each agriculture hectare gets a subsidy of $300 per year in India,” he added. This works out to be around Rs 11,900 per acre of subsidy or 30 maunds average production of any commodity. Indian farmers have a comparative advantage of Rs 400 per 40kg. The meeting was attended, among others, by Tariq Bucha, Senator Sugra Imam, Sarfraz Ahmad Khan, Malik Ramzan, Ibad Khan and Hamid Malhi.
The Commerce Ministry’s delegation was also reaching Lahore on Thursday (today) to take automobile sector into confidence. Stakeholders indicated that there was no such official instruction to any ministry or department concerned from the Prime Minister to halt the trade normalisation process with India, but farmers’ stance appears to be a signal towards that direction.