LAHORE - Despite free trade with India, following the MFN status to India by Pakistan, a negative list of over 500 items to be maintained to protect local industry, it was learnt. Industry sources told The Nation that under the WTO rules no country, after granting status of the Most Favoured Nation to some other state, can protect its own industry by imposing tariff barriers on imports. However, they said the government in the upcoming secretary level talks would try to fully convince the neighbouring country to maintain a negative list of around 500 items. "The import of these 500 goods from India will be restricted through comparatively high tariff. In this way these industries will be given a protection for a time period against the imported cheaper goods," they said. A negative list in excess of 500 items out of over 7,000 tradable items will be maintained initially, but will be eliminated with the passage of time, industry sources said quoting the federal commerce secretary as saying in a meeting. They said that Secretary Commerce Zafar Mehmood wanted to be fully prepared for the second round of talks with his Indian counter part in New Delhi on 14th and 15th Nov and is collecting details of non-tariff barriers and other impediments applied intentionally or unintentionally by Indian side. In an informal chat with business community at TDAP head office, the Secretary Commerce very candidly discussed the pros and cons of Trade with India while forming committees to identify barriers to exports to India and advised the business community to be forward looking towards regional trade, the economic growth and consumer interest both can be ensured with growing regional trade. The meeting was attended by DG PAMA Abdul Waheed, Chairman PAPAAM Nabeel Hashmi and former Chairman PAPAAM Amir Allahwala besides representatives from auto, motorcycles, and steel sheets manufacturers and other sectors. The Secretary Commerce said that the federal cabinet has given mandate to Ministry of Commerce regarding MFN, and it is his duty to ensure and protect the interest of Pakistani business community while asking India to implement the MFN conditionality in letter and spirit. He said that Pakistan is not giving any favour to India by offering the status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN), but all this is covered by existing laws of the World Trade Organization and international treaties. The auto industry representatives expressing their reservations said that the government. should take a holistic approach towards trade and protecting the local industry, on one hand it ensures level playing field on the other, one of its important wings i.e. planning commission, recommends tariff rationalization which will devastate the engineering and smaller industry. They mentioned that loopholes in evaluation at ports, under invoicing and mis-declaration are some of the major concerns which if addressed, would have given some sort of confidence to local industry that the Govt will protect its interest considering its own interest as the Automobile industry is treated worldwide as the mother of all industries. The Secretary Commerce stated that both the countries would be required to dismantle non-tariff barriers to move towards normalisation of trade and explained that it was not something new as both the countries had enjoyed MFN status from 1947 to 1965 and signed four agreements. Being signatories to General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT), he said, both the countries were bound not to display discriminatory attitude in trade with any of the member countries. Mehmud said that there were Pakistan-specific barriers, including lack of infrastructure at ports of entry, bureaucratic and administrative mishandling, visa restrictions and surveillance of visitors to India, banking limitations and restrictive trade routes. He said that commerce ministry will extend its full support to the business communities while the federation and chambers should also engage members for creating awareness regarding the available remedies in case of trade disputes and relaxations to benefit properly from the international trade regime.