Policy

India to push for mutual recognition agreements at BRICS meet on goods and services

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 11, 2021

Senior officials from the five countries to thrash out ways to improve trade in the region

India will push for mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) in areas such as regulatory standards, conformity assessment, accreditation procedures, qualifications, visas and social security at a meeting of senior officials from the BRICS grouping — which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to promote cooperation in the goods and services sectors this week.

New Delhi, however, is unlikely to discuss any commitments for opening up e-commerce and any decision in the area will be taken on a ‘best-endeavour’ basis, a person tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

Advantage for India

As India is the chair of the BRICS this year, it has the advantage of setting the agenda for the meetings, although other members, too, can highlight the areas of their interest.

“India has been trying to get BRICS members to agree to MRAs in a number of areas of its interest for some time. While there is a general agreement that these would boost trade in both goods and services, including movement of professionals, there hasn’t been much progress in the area. At the senior officials meeting this week, New Delhi will try to push for it,” the official said.

The BRICS grouping, which together accounts for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 25 per cent of global GDP, seeks to deepen, broaden and intensify cooperation within the bloc and among the individual countries.

With India assuming rotating chairmanship of the group on January 1, it will host the BRICS Summit later this year where Heads of States of member nations will reach some agreements based on year-long discussions between officials and Ministers.

In the three-day meeting on goods and services beginning Monday, the Indian side will be headed by a senior official from the Commerce & Industry Ministry.

Technical barriers

There has been an increase in the incidence of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) applied by BRICS countries over the last few years that impede free flow of goods and services. “MRAs are useful in getting around the SPS & TBT barriers. While there are some arrangements already between different members of the BRICS, some targeted ones between all members would significantly help in easing regional trade,” the official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the BRICS Summit in Brasilia in November 2019, had pointed out that with the mutual recognition of visas, social security agreement and qualifications, we will provide a more conducive environment for people from five countries to travel and work.

Some BRICS members, especially China and Russia, may be interested in pushing the agenda for liberalising e-commerce, but India will maintain its position that any concession in the area has to be strictly on a best-endeavour basis with no firm commitments, the official added.

India is also not much interested in bringing down tariffs on goods as it will not be comfortable with giving greater market access to cheap Chinese products.

Published on July 11, 2021

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