Trade facilitation agreement in services
India submitted at WTO a proposal for a trade facilitation agreement in services which is aimed at easing the movement of skilled workers across borders.
The proposal will be taken up by an expert committee at the WTO headquarters, post which it will be taken up for discussion among all WTO members.
Minister of commerce, Nirmala Sitharaman confirmed that India has submitted a legally vetted paper on Trade facilitation agreement in services at Geneva.
In the initial phase, till March 17 only the council for trade in services members will be part of the discussion. After that to build awareness all WTO members will be made part of discussions.
India is planning to push the proposal at the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting which will be held in Argentina in December.
What the pact aims to achieve:
- Primarily, easing the cross-border movement of skilled workers.
- Ensure portability of social security contributions.
- Single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals.
- Cross border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism.
Trade Facilitation Agreement(TFA) in goods:
- First administrative deal to be signed in 21 years at Bali.
- It aims to streamline, simplify and standardize custom procedures which will cut help cut trade cost.
- It will also add 2.7 percent to world trade growth and more than half a percent to world GDP growth.
- It will reduce logistic costs, as goods will move faster.
- Access to export and import data on a real-time basis, as all the ports will be connected electronically.
- Developing countries are required to build infrastructure capacity for faster clearance of cross border shipments.
TFA in services as part of new issues:
The Trade facilitation agreement in services could be seen as a new issue and India would be under pressure to allow discussion on other new issues, which are not part of the ongoing Doha round negotiations.
India has earlier opposed attempts made by certain developed nations for inclusion of new issues in WTO, though it agreed for an informal and non-binding discussion. India’s stand is that the proposed Trade Facilitation agreement(TFA) in services is about facilitation, that is making market access effective and commercially meaningful and not about new market access.
This essentially means that like the agreement in goods trade, the proposed agreement is also expected to cover discrepancies in trade in services, as well as procedural and administrative issues and principles that apply to all.
It will not deal with market access issues because that will involve domestic regulations which the proposed agreement does not seek to address.