At a recent informal meeting in Paris on May 14, 2004, a number of WTO ministers agreed that talks should commence on the issue of trade facilitation. A recent paper by Nisha Taneja* points out that while several countries have reservations about beginning negotiations on multilateral agreement on trade facilitation within the WTO, India should agree to the negotiations. Taneja recommends the adoption of effective and appropriate trade facilitation measures by India as being essential to not remain uncompetitive in the global trading environment on account of high transaction costs. But India would have to be very careful in the level of obligation it is willing to undertake, given the financial and time requirement that trade facilitation measures are likely to entail. If they are pursued in the context of the WTO, then India needs to focus on issues relating to the time schedule, details and level of obligation and coverage of trade facilitation measures.
Focusing on the content of the significant proposals made by Members on Article V (freedom of transit), Ar-ticle VIII (fees and formalities connected with imp- ortation and exportation), and Article X (publication and administration of trade rules) of GATT 1994, the paper examines the current status in India corresponding to each of these, examines whether they would impose a burden if accepted, and suggests the level of obligation to be taken if such proposals are accepted at the multilateral level.
It turns out that India is autonomously pursuing most of the recommendations made as part of its re-form agenda. In-dia already has a fairly transparent system of publication of trade regulations and ado-pting the suggested measures will not impose any burden. It is in the process of implementing measures on streamlining export and im-port procedures suggested by Member countries, but meeting global standards would require huge res-ources and adequate time to implement the same. India could accept the proposals on best endeavour basis.
On the issue of transit, the proposals recommend that regional cooperation could provide a solution, an example of which is the treaty of transit with Nepal.
*Trade Facilitation in the WTO: Implications for India, by Nisha Taneja, ICRIER Working Paper No 128, April 2004.