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Pak wants to defer trade talks

Islamabad June 30 (PTI): Pakistan today sought the postponement of the fifth and last round of talks of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) to be held in Kathmandu later this month.

This move could cast a shadow on the Saarc summit slated to be held later this year.

Asked about reports that the Saarc summit could be delayed due to the lack of progress on Safta, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said: “Islamabad has asked India and other countries to postpone the Safta talks to late August.”

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

It is believed that Pakistan sought to defer the Safta talks because India made it clear that its stand to attend the next Saarc summit would depend on Pakistan granting the most-favoured nation (MFN) status and necessary trade concessions to it under Safta.

Pakistan has granted 78 items for preferential tariffs to India, while New Delhi has already granted MFN status to Pakistan.

Officials of the Saarc countries were to meet in Kathmandu from July 18-21 for crucial talks on the fifth and final round of talks on the implementation of Safta.

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