With Theresa May in Delhi, India gets UK booster over TFA on services

The UK has offered its support to India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the latter’s proposal to develop a framework to boost worldwide trade in services.

India recently submitted a concept note on a trade facilitation agreement on services with the WTO, taking the first decisive step towards gathering global consensus for this purpose.

Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “I am grateful to the UK Prime Minister and the minister for international trade for offering to support India at the WTO on our proposal on trade facilitation agreement (TFA) on services.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is currently on a visit to India to boost bilateral co-operation, as the country explores trade prospects in a post-Brexit world.

In the concept note, India has said that just like the TFA in goods, which is aimed at aimed at relaxing customs rules for smoother trade flow, there is a need for a “counterpart agreement” in services, and that the proposed pact must also ensure special and differential treatment for developing and poor nations.

Sitharaman said WTO director general Roberto Azevedo asked India to work on the proposal, during the recent mini-ministerial in Norway. The minister said India is in the process of getting a broader text on the TFA in services vetted legally, following which it will be submitted with the WTO. India is keen on boosting the services sector, as they account for over a half of its GDP.

India to identify key sectors for FTA with UK

Commerce secretary Rita Teaotia said on Tuesday India will identify those sectors where it has strong competitive advantage while negotiating a likely free trade agreement (FTA) with Britain. She cited a study that said the UK could gain more if both the countries seal an FTA.

“The UK is an important market for us. In future certainly, an FTA would be realistic, would be opportune, and would perhaps be to our benefit,” Teaotia said at a seminar organised by Ficci and the Centre for WTO studies.

Both the countries have evinced interest in negotiating an FTA covering goods, services and investments. However, a formal negotiation for this purpose can start only after Britain’s exit from the European Union is over.

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