Most Favoured Nation Current Affairs - 2019

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Imports from Pakistan to India decline by 92% in March 2019

Imports from Pakistan to India have declined by 92% amounting to USD 2.84 Million in March 2019 after imposition of 200% customs duties on all products. The strong economic action against Pakistan was taken following Pulwama terror attack.

Key Highlights

  • Background: On February 2019, in aftermath of Pulwama terror attack for which Pakistan based JeM terror group claimed responsibility, India revoked the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status given to Pakistan. This further led to strong economic action against Pakistan such as India raised customs duty to 200% on all goods imported from Pakistan.
  • During 2018-19 fiscal year for January-March period, the imports from Pakistan declined by 47%, about USD 53.65 Million.
  • India’s Export: In March 2019, India’s exports to Pakistan also dipped by about 32% amounting to over USD171 million. However, Indian exports grew by 7.4% (over USD 2 billion) during 2018-19.
  • Commodities Imported: India raised 200% custom duty on goods imported from neighbouring country, including cotton, fresh fruits, cement, petroleum products and mineral. But the main commodities imported during month of March 2019 from Pakistan includes knitted fabrics, wool, articles of apparel and clothing, preparation of vegetables spices, chemicals, man-made filaments, and plastics.
  • Exception: As per some experts, keeping in mind that importing goods at 200% customs duties would not be viable for anyone, thus government has allowed few domestic manufacturing exporters to avail Nil(0%) import duty benefit under Advance Authorisation Scheme to import products, especially raw materials from Pakistan.

About Most Favoured Nation Status

  • Under the MFN pact, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) member country is obliged to treat other trading nation (to whom it has granted MFN status) in a non-discriminatory manner, especially with regard to customs duty and other levies.
  • The MFN status was granted by India to Pakistan in 1996, but India was not granted the same from Pakistan.

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India Withdraws MFN Status of Pakistan

One day after the Pulwama terror attack on 14th February, 2019, India has taken a stern step of withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation or MFN Status of Pakistan. This move would enable India to increase customs duty on goods coming from Pakistan. The decision was taken in the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that took place on 15th February 2019.

What is the MFN Status?

  • The MFN status is given under WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It is given to an international trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade amongst all the members of WTO.
  • As per the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a country providing MFN status to another country has to provide concessions, privileges, and immunity in trade agreements.
  • WTO states that if a special status is granted to one trade partner, the country is required to extend it to all members of the WTO without discrimination or any special treatment.
  • An MFN status helps reduce trade barriers and results in a reduction in tariffs especially in customs duty. This in turn strengthens trade-ties between the two countries.
  • As India and Pakistan both are members of the WTO, both are required to grant MFN status to each other and other partner countries.
What is the State of MFN Status Between India and Pakistan?

India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, a year after the formation of WTO. But Pakistan hasn’t accorded MFN status to India till now. The reason for this is decades of conflict, mistrust and war. Now the total India-Pakistan trade has increased marginally to $2.41 billion in 2017-18 as compared to $ 2.27 billion in 2016-17. India had imported goods worth $488.5 million in 2017-18 and exported goods worth $ 1.92 billion in that fiscal. India’s exports mostly include cotton, dyes, chemicals, vegetables and iron and steel; while its imports include fruits, cement, leather, chemicals and spices. Given that Indo-Pakistan trade-ties is not very strong, this step of revoking the MFN status is only symbolic.

What is the Cabinet Committee on Security?

There are 6 Cabinet Committees in India i.e. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, Cabinet Committee on Accommodation, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and Cabinet Committee on Security. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of the Central Government of India looks into the matters of defence expenditures and National Security. It consists of the Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of External Affairs and, Minister of Finance and Minister of Defence. It is chaired by the Prime Minister.

About the Pulwama Terror Attack

37 CRPF personnel were martyred in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on 14th February 2019 when a terrorist attacked with an explosive-laden vehicle into one of the buses of the convoy of the security forces. Jaish-e-Mohammed has taken responsibility for the attack. There were more than 78 vehicles in the convoy in which 2500 personnels were present. This is the worst terror attack since the Uri attack in 2016.

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