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Pak seeks postponement of SAFTA meet

K J M Varma in Islamabad | June 30, 2003 22:38 IST

In a move that could cast shadow on the SAARC summit slated to be held later this year, Pakistan on Monday sought the postponement of the fifth and last round of talks of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, to be held in Kathmandu later this month.

Asked about reports that the SAARC summit could be delayed due to lack of progress on SAFTA, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan told reporters, "Islamabad has asked India and other countries to postpone the SAFTA talks to late August."

He, however, did not give any reason for the postponement.

Officials of the SAARC countries were scheduled to meet in Kathmandu from July 18-21 to hold crucial talks on the fifth and final round of talks on the implementation of SAFTA.

Khan said, "We are committed to SAFTA and we are committed to negotiations on SAFTA. Four negotiations have taken place in the past and we are looking forward to take part in the fifth round. If south Asia moves towards Free Trade Area this would be a big positive development."

While there was no official explanation for the postponement, it is believed that Pakistan sought deferment because India made it clear that its stand to attend the next SAARC summit would depend on Pakistan granting MFN status and necessary trade concessions to India under SAFTA process.

Pakistan has only so far granted 78 items for preferential tariffs to India under the SAFTA process, while

New Delhi has already granted Most Favoured Nation, to Pakistan.

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