Even as it is negotiating several new bilateral trade and investment agreements, including the much-touted India-EU pact, the Union commerce ministry said it would give preference to trade liberalisation via multilateral arrangements.
Speaking to reporters after addressing Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) members in Chennai on Friday, Rita Teaotia, Union commerce secretary said while FTAs/CEPAs (comprehensive economic partnership agreements) and multilateral accords will run in parallel, she was of the view that multilateral arrangements were better suited to help the exporters to get the much-needed level playing field, while competing with their counterparts globally.
“While we would pursue the ongoing FTA moves, we would like to give preference to multilateral sort of arrangements, some thing like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) forum,” she said. India already has eleven bilateral trade pacts — including those with Japan, Korea, ASEAN, Singapore and Sri Lanka and is in talks for such pacts with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Gulf Cooperation Council among others. The commerce secretary’s statement assumes significance as many of the extant FTAs have been skewed in favour of the partner-countries. The services component of ASEAN and Singapore agreements, for instance, have taken much time to materialise after the tariffs have been cut on goods, much to the benefit of the respective countries than India.
“And once there is a market of our choice, then we will do one-on- one. See, we don’ t have many FTAs, we have only 11. Even though the FTAs with Japan and Korea were well negotiated, when faced with trouble many exporters accuse that these FTAs were not good enough to protect their interests,” she said.
Besides bilateral accords, India is also exploring the option of regional trade agreements including an Asia-Pacific agreement that comprises China.
The commerce secretary said that at a time when India’s exports were down, the Centre is taking various measures to help the exporters. The ministry is holding talks with various stakeholders, including exporters, state administration and others to boost the exports. Some of the major issues raised by the stakeholders includes infrastructure bottlenecks including high transaction cost, port and airport access, traffic management, integration of software with various agencies and specific concern like interest subvention.
On the Chinese Yuan’s effect and what her ministry has been doing to help exporters, the commerce secretary said there was no universal blanket measure to arrest the impact any currency fall.