The Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) has said the farmers across the country would put up stiff resistance to grant of MFN/NDMA status to India and opening of Wagah border 7/24, until the government safeguards domestic weak agriculture sector from unfair competition with India.
Talking to Business Recorder, FAP President and Co-Chair of Agriculture Taskforce, PIJBF Dr Tariq Bucha said here on Thursday that over 66 percent population of the country was employed in the agriculture sector, which directly contributed more than 25 percent to the GDP. The elected associations of farmers across the country would vehemently oppose granting NDMA/MFN to India and opening of Wagah border at this stage without protecting domestic sectors from enormous Indian subsidies, and getting significant market access from India for Pakistani goods.
He said it was obligatory for the Federal government to ensure the level playing field for the domestic agriculture sector as per the requirement laid down in the Cabinet Decision of 29 February 2012. He warned that unnecessary haste with which government of Pakistan was proceeding to open Wagha 24/7 to more than 137 items before India lowers its agriculture tariffs and removes all kinds of NTBs and SPS measures is undermining our negotiating leverage and position.
Dr Bucha said the Commerce Ministry must effectively counter the enormous Indian subsidies on agriculture before opening Wagha and granting MFN/NDMA. It must first put in place tariff rate quotas per crop that equals the subsidy given to each crop on the Indian side, to ensure a level playing field. Once that was done, the government could move forward on negotiating a separate agri-trade agreement in consultation with the stakeholders including FAP for bilateral trade with India, he added.
He said by granting 24/7 Wagah access to more than 137 Indian goods was granting India even more favourable terms than required by a grant of MFN/NDMA. Granting Wagah access to more than existing agriculture items will significantly weaken Pakistan’s economy, and already beleaguered agriculture sector.
He said at that juncture, the National Tariff Commission (NTC) did not yet have the capacity or provisions to effectively counter unfair trade practices such as the anticipated dumping and heavy subsidisation of agricultural goods by the Indian side. President Basmati Growers Association, Hamid Malhi, said that according to his understanding and meetings with the senior officers of the Commerce Ministry, the PML-N government was determined to give MFN status to India and open the Wagah border 24/7 for trade.
He said Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) had opposed granting of MFN status to India unless a level-playing field was also provided to Pakistani farmers, as India’s agriculture sector was highly subsidised. He said India gave subsidies to the tune of $50 billion to agriculture sector and Pakistan’s total agricultural GDP was $50bn. This is about 15.3 percent of India’s GNP whereas in Pakistan, agricultural subsidies are less than one percent of the GDP. Malhi said representatives of the farmers across the four provinces would soon meet to chalk out a common strategy to foil government’s bid to open the Wagah border round the clock.