India’s proposal at the World Trade Organization to negotiate a trade facilitation pact in services has received a mixed response from member countries, Parliament was informed today. In February, India had circulated the draft legal text on the Trade Facilitation in Services Agreement (TFS) at the WTO. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the proposal has been discussed at the relevant services bodies of the WTO. The proposal provides a framework to address various impediments to trade in services in a comprehensive and holistic manner, she said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.
“India’s proposal received a mixed response from the WTO members. Some members appreciated India’s proposal as being comprehensive in scope and well balanced. “However, several developed and developing country members expressed concern on the scope and content of the draft agreement,” she said. However, she added that the proposal has imparted the much needed momentum to the discussion on services and India has urged members to engage constructively on this initiative.
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Replying to a separate question, Sitharaman said an association of pharmaceutical manufacturers of America has asked US Trade Representative to continue to keep India on its Priority Watch List in the Special 301 Report. The Special 301 Report issued by the US is a “unilateral measure” to create pressure on countries to enhance IPR (intellectual property rights) protection beyond the WTO rules.
Under the WTO regime, any dispute between two countries needs to be referred to the dispute settlement body and unilateral actions are not tenable under this regime, she added. “Special 301 is an extra territorial application of the domestic law of a country, which is inconsistent with the established norms of the WTO,” the minister said.