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A large number of WTO member countries are supporting in principle India’s proposal for negotiating a trade facilitation agreement (TFA) in services, a senior government official said on Friday. Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry Anup Wadhawan also said that India is pursuing this proposal in the WTO in a serious manner. Without specifying the names of these countries, he said: “large number of countries have supported it in-principle”. He was briefing the media after the conclusion of two-day workshop on TFS.
On the lines of the trade facilitation pact in goods, India has submitted a detailed proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to negotiate a trade facilitation pact in services.
It aims at liberalising rules for movement of professionals and other steps to reduce transaction costs to boost growth of the services sector.
Wadhawan said that like trade facilitation pact in goods would help in reducing barriers, TFS too would cut hurdles in promoting global trade in services.
India’s Ambassador Designate to the WTO, J S Deepak said that the workshop was useful as several experts shared their views and suggestions on ways to take the proposal forward.
World Bank supported the commerce ministry in organising this seminar.
When asked whether the proposal will become part of the forthcoming ministerial meeting in December at Argentina, Wadhawan said that the agenda has not been worked out yet.
On this, Deepak said that proposals are introduced in different fora and it will be discussed in the special session of the committee on trade and services in Geneva.
Later, the ministry said in statement that the workshop provided a platform to discuss issues related to facilitating trade in services among global experts from the World Bank, WTO, OECD, academicians, government officials, and industry representatives from India and abroad.
On the way forward, the participants suggested some alternate approaches as against India’s proposal to address trade facilitation in services through a consensus based standalone agreement on TFS.
“India’s preference is to respond to the challenges confronting trade in services in a comprehensive manner,” it said.
It said some participants suggested that while trade facilitation is important, the level of ambition should be raised by addressing market access barriers as well for realising the full potential for global trade in services.
Some voiced concerns that the Indian draft proposal includes contentious elements on Mode 4 (movement of professionals) including disciplines on immigration and social security measures.
“India emphasized the critical relevance of these elements for realizing the full potential of trade in services,” it added.
It was recognised that this workshop is being held at a very opportune time, when we are increasingly hearing protectionist voices from across the globe, it said.