With its eye on the December ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), India is expected to push its proposal on trade facilitation agreement on services (TFS) at an upcoming WTO meet in October. The WTO’s biennial ministerial meet, to be held in December in Argentina, will see nations discussing trade and investment issues. However, negotiations have heated up over the agenda of discussion in December, as richer nations led by the United States and the European Union have supported the introduction of a proposed set of global rules for e-commerce. On the other hand, another motley group of nations, led by China, is parallelly pushing for a similar trade facilitation agreement (TFA) on investment. As a result, the WTO has broken conventional practices to call a mini-ministerial in October to hammer out the exact agenda of the December meet, a senior commerce and industry ministry official said. At this earlier meet in Marrakesh, Morocco, the TFS will be pushed by India, he added. Based on the similar TFA on merchandise goods, this proposes to expedite the global trade in services, by allowing for easier movement of skilled workers between countries, among others. In July, India had revised its proposal on TFS at the WTO and told other nations that the proposed agreement will only apply to the existing commitments scheduled under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. India will also stick to its stand that the development-based issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) need to be uniformly reaffirmed. This had not occurred at the earlier Nairobi ministerial conference in 2015.
And, the contentious issues of public stockholding of food and a special safeguard mechanism in agriculture have also not seen much progress.The DDA, adopted in 2001 at the fourth ministerial conference, had always struggled to find common ground between richer nations and poorer ones. With not much progress in 14 years, richer nations want new issues to replace the DDA. Developing nations, especially least developed countries (LDCs), oppose this, demanding trade concessions in the form of reduced tariffs and market access. Foreign Trade Policy review to take in GST-related developments In a related development, a commerce ministry official suggested that the government was trying to meet the September deadline for finishing the mid-term review of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) (2015-2020). The policy was earlier scheduled to coincide with the July 1 roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST) regime but had been deferred in order to take into account changing trends in trade owing to GST, he added. Earlier, senior officials had suggested that the reviewed policy may see the current target of $900 billion worth of exports by 2020 rolled down.