January 24, 2006EconomyForeign Affairs

Translation is killing free trade

Pulling out of SAFTA is inimical to Pakistan’s interests. Yet…

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Shahid Javed Burki sees signs that Pakistan will pull out of the South Asian Free Trade Argreement (SAFTA). He argues that this is a mindless policy’ as it will do little to give Pakistan economic leverage over India.

India, observing the rules of (WTO) membership, gave the MFN status to all the countries it traded with; Pakistan refused to reciprocate and kept India out of its list. Several arguments have been put forward since that decision was taken as to why Pakistan was not ready to comply. Some of them are political and some economic. It is said that the term “most favoured nation” does not translate well into Urdu and that the grant of the status to India by Pakistan would lead to headlines in the Urdu press that would not be comfortable for Islamabad. The headlines would proclaim that Pakistan has declared India to be its most pasandeeda mulk, a description that would not sit well with some anti-India elements in the society.

Some years ago, Washington had the same problem with reference to China….(it) handled this recurrent problem by dropping the “most favoured nation” term from its legislative lexicon altogether. The term was replaced with the less emotive “normal trading relations” and the strategy worked. [Dawn]

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