Industry seeks foreign partners for trade pact

Proposed accord to ease travel across borders for work

Updated - January 17, 2017 11:02 pm IST

Published - January 17, 2017 10:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

CII and FICCI will hold seminars and a workshop to build support for the TFS agreement. File Photo

CII and FICCI will hold seminars and a workshop to build support for the TFS agreement. File Photo

India’s top industry bodies are attempting to build a coalition with counterparts in other nations with similar interests to give a fillip to the country’s proposal for a Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level.

The proposed TFS pact, among other things, aims to make it easier for professionals and skilled workers to move across borders for short-term work, as well as ensure portability of their social security contributions.

Two leading industry bodies — CII and FICCI — will next month hold a global seminar in Delhi and Mumbai on the topic.

“In February, the CII will be organising the seminar in Mumbai, while the FICCI will hold a similar one in Delhi,” a senior executive in one of the industry bodies said.

“We are working with the (India’s) Commerce Ministry (the nodal government agency for WTO-related matters) on this. The dates will be finalised soon,” another trade body official said. These seminars will be followed up by a major ‘workshop’ in March on the proposed TFS pact to ensure greater support and participation from Indian service industries in the entire process.

According to a ‘communication’ from India to the WTO in November 2016, “while services occupy a significant and growing share of domestic and international transactions, trade flows in services still remain subject to numerous border and behind-the-border barriers as well as procedural bottlenecks.

“These impediments particularly limit the benefits of trade in services for small and medium enterprises as well as small exporters worldwide.”

Eliminating bottlenecks

India said the TFS Agreement will address the key issues pertinent to facilitating services trade, such as transparency, streamlining procedures, and eliminating bottlenecks.

“In brief, the TFS Agreement is aimed at ensuring that the market access arising out of existing as well as future liberalisation commitments is effective and meaningful,” it added.

The seminars — being organised with the backing of the commerce ministry — will comprise discussions on India's TFS paper submitted to the WTO. They will also sensitise industries in India and in other countries on the importance of trade facilitation measures to increase global services trade, and the effectiveness of coalitions to achieve the objectives.

While India’s industry bodies have begun attempts to form a global coalition on services, the Centre is also in talks with other countries on coalition building.

India’s proposal for a TFS agreement was welcomed by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and trade ministers from many WTO-member nations.

The importance of coalition building has been acknowledged by the WTO when it stated that, “coalitions give developing countries a stronger voice in negotiations. The resulting agreements mean that all countries, including the most powerful, have to play by the rules.

“The rule of law replaces might-makes-right. A number of countries have formed coalitions in the WTO. These groups often speak with one voice using a single coordinator or negotiating team,” the WTO said.

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