According to Mr. Ajit Seth, Cabinet Secretary, Government of India, Indian industry must play an important role in developing standards in India. The Cabinet Secretary was delivering the Inaugural Address at the Standards Conclave: Role of Standards in International Trade: Challenges Opportunities and Issues organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on April 16-17, 2014.
The Cabinet Secretary observed that India does not have a standard driven culture and India’s manufacturing sector has been accustomed to an environment where standards have not been given the priority it should have. He emphasized the need for an umbrella legislation to be put in place to provide an instrument to notify standards in a smooth and time bound manner while meeting the international obligations.
He observed that internationally the role of standards had gained importance with the adoption of SPS and TBT Agreements during the Uruguay Round of WTO. He felt that India needs to take a leading role in the identification and development of standards. This will help improve the competitiveness of Indian Industry and help it to improve its export prospects and better integration in the global economy.
In his address, Mr. Rajeev Kher, Commerce Secretary, Department of Commerce, Government of India stated that standards had effectively replaced tariffs in the international trade discourse. He stated that development of rules had also gained greater importance than tariffs. Countries around the world are developing higher standards and are designing products to meet these standards. He felt that the time had come for Indian Industry to accord priority backed by resources to this important aspect. This, he felt, would be important both domestically and internationally.
Elaborating further, Mr. Kher highlighted how different countries in Africa are upgrading their standards for various products and many of these were now at par with developed country standards. He felt that Indian industry may find itself shut out of some of these markets if it does not prepare itself to meet the emerging challenges.
The Commerce Secretary also spoke of the enclavisation of international trade with the creation of mega trading blocs like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Regional Comprehenive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was leading to a paradigm shift in the trade regime. The emphasis had moved away from tariffs and these blocs would now be focused on creation of rules, regulations and standards. He felt that India needs to find a place in this new architecture and regulatory regime.
Mr. Kher was of the view that government and industry needed to be on the same page in terms of development of standards. He felt that a comprehensive law needed to be formulated under which standards development could take place. He observed that there was a need to mainstream the acceptance of standards even within the Government of India and a consultative mechanism needed to be put in place to bring all stakeholders together while formulating standards.
In his address Mr. Sunil Soni, Director General, Bureau of Indian Standards stated that India needed to take greater advantage of the SPS and TBT agreements under the WTO. Of the 18,000 notifications issued under these agreements from various countries, regulations issued from India numbered only 93. Even these few were the topic of intense debate as the entire ecosystem does not seem to be in place. This pointed to the need to put in place a sound regulatory environment in the country.
Mr. Soni observed that while the BIS is the apex organization for the formulation of standards in India, there were other organisations involved in this process as well. He felt that there was a need to develop synergy between the BIS and these organisations.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Deep Kapuria, Chairman, CII MSME Council and Chairman, Hi-Tech Group stressed on the need to make compliance with standards affordable. He felt that the high cost of compliance may lead to a large number of MSME’s not being able to export their products.
Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII in his welcome address stated that the enhancement of standards would not only boost India’s exports but also would restrict inferior imports which are causing serious injury to the domestic industry.