India drawing up plan to fix trade gaps, fight protectionism

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 9 2014, 11:18am hrs
The commerce ministry is working on a plan to meet various sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) requirements of its various partners.

India and many other developing nations have long blamed the developed countries for using SPS and TBT measures for protectionist purpose. The Western countries not only maintain trade-restrictive standards but also raise them, to the disadvantage of Indian exporters.

Sources said the ministry has initiated a discussion with different stakeholders to handle this protectionism. We face barriers for exports and there is poor awareness in the industry about such measures due to which the unfair measures of other countries can't be questioned or challenged, said a commerce ministry official.

As part of the discussion process, the ministry is organising a two-day conclave on the role of standards in international trade, challenges, opportunities and issues.

The objective of the conclave is to assess the gaps in existing regulatory and legislative areas, besides arriving at a roadmap of reforms required to meet global challenges.

The WTO Agreements on the Application of Sanitary (for protection of human and animal health) and Phytosanitary (for protection of plant health) Measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) try to strike a balance between the competing uses of standards in international trade. The SPS and TBT agreements acknowledge that governments have the right to take necessary measures for the protection of human, animal and plant health and allow some freedom for setting national standards to the extent required to protect them.

The existing ecosystem has a range of standards like voluntary, mandatory standards (technical regulations), private standards and international standards.

The international standards are made by international standards bodies, ISO, ITU, IEC and at the national level by the National Standards Body- BIS. Technical regulations are framed by individual ministries or regulatory bodies with each agency having its own conformity assessment procedures.

Many regulators have prescribed BIS standards and rely on BIS certification. In the WTO context, there are 01 TBT enquiry points in BIS.

The discussion comes at a time when the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in a recent report titled Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures 2014, enumerated its concerns while trading with India in dairy products, pork, poultry, swine, pulses, wheat and barley.

India's concerns over the impact of non-tariff measures (NTMs) on global trade are well-documented and numerous attempts have been made in institutions such as the WTO, World Bank, EU, OECD, UNCTAD and Asean to mitigate their effects.