India prepares for WTO: Doha, services get priority, new issues to depend on consensus

NEW DELHI: Ahead of a key meeting in Davos in a week’s time, India on Tuesday stated that ways for easier trade in services and the ongoing Doha Round issues would be high up on its priority for negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as it prepares for the ministerial meeting in Argentina later this year.

Even as commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated India’s stand on food security issues, she stated that new issues such as e-commerce and government procurement would be included in the WTO’s agenda only after all countries reach a consensus.

“New issues or any issue will come in the agenda only after consensus emerges… I do not think there is a consensus. Discussions are on but it is not in the agenda,” she said after chairing a review meeting on WTO and the path ahead which was attended by Indian negotiators from Geneva and different ministries including finance, home, animal husbandry and food.

India and the US would meet on the sidelines of World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo too is expected to be there. Ministers of Canada and European Union too would meet Sitharaman in Davos. The WTO’s top decision making body is also scheduled its meeting in December in Argentina.

At the last ministerial in Nairobi, developed countries were successful in clinching the deal away from India by allowing new issues to be taken up in the WTO’s mandate.

Developed countries including the US have been pushing for cooperation, information exchange and capacity building for small and medium enterprises and fisheries also.

On its part, the government is discussing the new issues with industry and studying all the papers submitted by other members in the WTO.

On the issue of Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in services on which India has submitted a paper, the minister said the ministry has sought its legal vetting.

India is pitching for this agreement as the services sector contribute about 60 per cent in the GDP and 28 per cent in the total employment.

The note aims at reducing transaction costs by doing away with unnecessary regulatory and administrative burden on trade in services. In its note, India has proposed for simplification of procedures and clarity in work permits and visas for smooth movement of professionals.

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