India will soon move a detailed concept note at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to start discussions on trade facilitation agreement in services.
The note would seek suggestions and views of the WTO members countries. “We will soon put the concept note in the multi-lateral body and it will be discussed in the working group of services in Geneva,” a senior commerce ministry official said.
India is pushing for a trade facilitation agreement (TFA) on services to promote trade in this sector along with goods. The WTO has already concluded a similar pact for merchandise.
The TFA in goods will come into force once two-thirds of members have completed their ratification process. It contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.
It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and compliance issues.
On similar lines, India has asked for an agreement to promote services trade as the sector contributes about 60 per cent in India’s economy and 28 per cent in the total employment.
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had raised the issue during an informal meeting with key members of WTO on the sidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ministerial council meeting in Paris.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo had welcomed it and asked India to submit the proposal for discussion.
The official said that unlike goods, 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. In fact, world economy today depends more on trade in services. There is a need to recognise that services is a tradeable item,” another official said.
TFA in services means liberalised visa regime such as multiple entry visas, visa-free travel for foreign tourists and long term visas for business community among other things. The move also assumes significance as about a dozen countries are already negotiating Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) in the WTO. India is not part of TISA.