With GST set for July 1 rollout, traders dealing with Pakistan via the Wagah border are expecting that business between both nations will get a boost with the tax reform. Over the last few years, while overall trade through the Integrated Check Post (ICP), Attari has come down, most of it has been in form of import from Pakistan. Traders are now hopeful that cement imported from Pakistan will become cheaper for consumers in India after the GST comes into force.
“Earlier we were paying around Rs 65 to Rs70 on one bag of cement. Now, this tax will reduce to Rs 50 under GST. So, it will reduce the cost of cement in retail market,” said a local trader, Pardeep Sehgal. Another trader Rohit Sareen said, “It is true that Indian cement companies will also get benefit from GST and they will also pay less tax than before. Tax on Pakistani cement and Indian cement will be almost equal around 28 per cent. But even then there will be a marginal edge over the cement produced in India in terms of pricing. Similarly, commodities like gypsum and chemicals imported from Pakistan will also be cheaper.”
Many said that with GST checking tax evasion by local traders, importers will get a level playing field. “One of the biggest advantage for the importers is that now that the tax evasion in the Indian market will not be that easy. Earlier, we would import goods from Pakistan, which are also available in India. Local traders would reduce their cost by not paying taxes according to rules. But we used to pay most of taxes at the entry. Now, it will not be possible for local traders to evade tax. So importers will get more equal ground for trading,” said a trader, Rajdeep Uppal.
He added, “It is also an advantage for importers that they will pay all the taxes inside premises of ICP under GST. Then we will be able to move out our goods in any part of India without paying any other tax. There will be no need to get registered in other states to transport the goods. It will be big advantage for us. It will reduce our paper work.”
Dry fruits, another commodity imported in big quantities from Pakistan and Afganistan via Wagah, are likely to see a spike in prices. President of Dry Fruit Association Anil Mehra, said, “We have no problem with GST in principle. But government has increased tax under GST from previous 5 per cent to 12 per cent on all the dry fruits being imported from Afghanistan. It is true that all these items are luxury items. But at the same times these items are also used in Ayurvedic medicines and common man is also a consumer. So tax on all kinds of dry fruits should be 5 per cent.”
Meanwhile, trade has almost come to a halt here in the run up to the GST rollout. “Officials have no clarity on how to implement GST. Most of the traders are also confused. There were three holidays in Pakistan to celebrate Eid and hence trade remained closed. There would be hardly any business via Wagah for next three days as traders have adopted wait and watch policy. There is no infrastructure yet. Small tarders have reservations about GST,” said Manav Taneja, a trader.