India to seek trade facilitation pact for services at WTO

Trade facilitation agreement, which is aimed at streamlining customs rules and procedures across the member nations has been pushed by developed nations.

Written by Shruti Srivastava | New Delhi | Published: January 6, 2016 1:30:55 am

Amid criticism that India failed to guard its interest at the WTO ministerial conference held last month, India is preparing a strategy to protect its interests by seeking “trade facilitation agreement for services”, where the country enjoys considerable strength.

An official source told The Indian Express that the country will raise the issue when the developed countries press for introduction of ‘’new issues’’ in the WTO agenda.

“We enjoy considerable competitiveness in the services sector. So we are of the view that efforts should be made to have a trade facilitation agreement for services on the lines of trade facilitation agreement for goods. The removal of barriers to services export and seamless movement of services is what we are looking at,” the sources said.

Trade facilitation agreement, which is aimed at streamlining customs rules and procedures across the member nations and reduce transaction cost by expediting trade flows, has been pushed by developed countries. However it is yet to be implemented as it will come into effect only when two-thirds of the member nations ratify it. As of now 63 countries of the 162 nations have ratified it while India is yet to ratify it.

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“India is looking at data privacy hurdles and visa issues. While we want to be recognised as a data secure country as it is important for meaningful access in cross border supply, we are also looking at various barriers in the sector in form of multiple visas,” the source said.

Data secure status has been a highly contentious issue in bilateral investment and trade negotiations with the European Union with India putting its foot down on the issue claiming that it has done adequate changes in its domestic data protection laws to ensure safety of data that flows in.

“On visas, India is looking at reasonable work visa laws and also the utility of multiple-entry visa versus single-entry visas. The least we expect is a softer regime for visa to promote out interest in the services sector,” the source said.

The government is mulling these options even as it battles the criticism heaped by the Opposition and civil society organisations on its perceived failure to protect India’s interests adequately in Nairobi.

While India was looking at continuation of the Doha development agenda (DDA), the ministerial declaration only said, “We recognise that many members reaffirm the DDA, and the declarations and decisions adopted at Doha and at the ministerial conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis.”

India is working on garnering support on the issue by holding meetings with like-minded nations. On the opening day of the Nairobi ministerial conference, countries including China and Kenya had said that only a comprehensive conclusion of the DDA, with economically meaningful and balanced outcomes, will provide impetus to global trade liberalisation and facilitation.

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