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India is committed to multilateral trade architecture, says the Commerce Secretary of India
Jan 27, 2016

India remains committed to the multilateral trade architecture, said Ms Rita Teaotia, Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India at the interactive discussion on “WTO Nairobi Ministerial Outcomes and India’s Future Trade Policy Priorities” held in New Delhi on 27 January 2016. The interactive session was organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in partnership with Centre for WTO Studies.  

Sharing her thoughts and experience from the recently concluded Nairobi conference, she added that the 10th Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya was significant. This was first time a Ministerial Meeting was held in Africa. The 2001 Doha Round had first time principle of development and since then developing countries sought to reiterate this in every Meeting. “We didn’t manage to achieve much”, she hinted.  

The Commerce Secretary revisited the Nairobi Meeting agendas amongst which include export competitiveness, special and preferential treatment, export subsidies, Special safeguard mechanism, etc. It focused on the package of measures for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). India is one of the 19 countries which has supported this. India is now working on smooth implementation to ensure LDCs benefit from India’s LDC schemes. 

She added that India is a signatory of ITA-I but not ITA-II. ITA-I hampered the growth of India’s electronics industry. The Secretary further said, “We should expect to see some movement of bringing new issues. This has happened in past and will happen in future. Our position is that first, let us deal with the outstanding issues.” 

Mr Arvind Mehta, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India stated that the world is grappling with trade policy. Too many countries with high ambitions are creating a deadlock. As WTO is not giving the result expected, mega Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) like Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are rising. Mr Mehta added that India’s trade architecture needs to keep all these realities in mind. The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is quite a workable model which ensures voluntary flexibility with differential preferences. 

Mr Sunil Kant Munjal, Past President, CII and Chairman, CII Task Force on Ease of Doing Business, added that it is critical for India to understand how negotiations take place. Most of the discussions take place in green room and small groups. Prof Abhijit Das, Head & Professor, Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) said that the US will want TPP is adopted by as many countries as possible. There will be pressure on India by developed countries. There will be other countries fighting for the US. This will have to be taken into consideration for Indian negotiators. It will be difficult for India to identify countries with common interests. South-South cooperation has to be reemerged to promote priorities.

Dr Harsha Vardhana Singh, Former Deputy Director General, WTO said, “India will be the fastest growing large economy and we have to make it a reality through domestic reforms. We have to make RCEP an attractive mechanism for attracting investment and make the most use of trade diversion.” 

Mr. Jayant Dasgupta, Former India’s Ambassador to WTO & Executive Partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys stated that with commodity prices going down, the US can’t agree what it promised in Doha Round. Earlier, while chairing the first session, Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII congratulated the Commerce Secretary and team for excellent leadership at Nairobi. 

New Delhi
27 January 2016

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