In what would help in increasing trade in services globally, India will “shortly” submit a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to start discussions on the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) in services.
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently pitched the idea at the recent informal meeting with the key members of the WTO on the sidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial council meeting in Paris, and asked the members to look at an agreement similar to the existing pact in goods sector.
The minister said that WTO director general Roberto Azevedo has welcomed the proposal and has asked India to submit the same for further discussion.
“We will do that at the earliest...This is a good breakthrough, which we can achieve,” she said.
Explaining about the proposal, Sitharaman said that there is a total absence of collective recognition of services sector as part of trade in the WTO.
“Trade is no longer just in finished goods. Trade is no longer in material goods. In fact, the world economy today depends more on trade in services...Services should be put under the definition of commodity. We are saying make that distinction obvious.
“Recognise that services is a tradeable item and if it is a tradebale item, shouldn’t there be a framework, shouldn’t the WTO, which is the ultimate body for dealing with anything under trade, have a space for it, definition for it and have a procedure for arbitration for it,” she said.
India is pitching for this agreement as the services sector contribute about 60% in the country’s GDP, and 28% in the total employment.
When asked whether it would propose deadlines for clearance of visas within timeline among others as part of the proposal, Sitharaman said it could include such things, but it all depends on the negotiations between the members.
The move assumes significance as about a dozen countries are already negotiating Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) in the WTO, she said the framework and contours of the TFA in service’s would be much broader and many things can be subsumed in this. India is not part of TISA.