India submits proposal on services trade facilitation at WTO

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said her team in Geneva would be talking to individual members to build awareness about the paper   -  Shanker Chakravarty

Says it is ready to meet its commitments under trade facilitation in goods

India submitted its formal proposal for an agreement on trade facilitation in services at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) suggesting measures to smoothen flow of services between countries a day after the multilateral forum brought into force the trade facilitation agreement in goods.

“We have submitted a legally vetted paper on trade facilitation in services at the WTO today (Thursday). The paper will be discussed at the Committee on Trade in Services of the WTO on March 14-17,” Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters at a media briefing on Thursday.

The proposed measures include clarity in work permits and visas, simplification in rules of temporary stay, rationalisation of taxes, fees and charges and sorting out social security contribution issues for short-term workers, among others.

US, Canada pinpricks

It may, however, be difficult for the proposal to be negotiated at the forthcoming WTO Ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December as members such as the US and Canada have already raised questions on some aspects of the concept paper on the matter floated by New Delhi in October 2016.

Sitharaman said that her team in Geneva would be talking to individual members to build awareness about the paper.

On India’s preparedness to implement the trade facilitation agreement in goods, the Minister said that things were moving smoothly.

“Our high level committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary has already held one meeting. We are well on course to meet all that we have committed to,” the Minister said.

India will have to immediately implement commitments made in schedule ‘A’ which do not need any legislative changes.

Necessary steps would be taken to bring in the legal changes required to implement some of the commitments made in schedules ‘B’ and ‘C’, which have to happen with a time lag, she added.

The Minister said that the changes to be brought about will improve the country’s logistics and reduce transaction time bringing down costs considerably.

Indian exporters, too, are hopeful that the TFA will boost the country’s exports through various facilitating measures and bring costs down.

“The Indian export-import community will be immensely benefited with stakeholders consultation mandated before effecting any change (in policies). There will be considerable lead time available, before implementing a change, which will by and large address the problems of shipments which are in the pipeline and presently get stuck due to policy procedural changes, said SC Ralhan from the Federation of Indian Export Organisations.

e-commerce churn

Replying to questions on the job losses taking place in e-commerce companies in India, the Minister said that churning was not just happening in e-commerce companies and it was a global phenomenon because of the economic situation.

“There is no need for alarm,” she said.

Published on February 23, 2017

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