Make in In­dia & Job Cre­ation May Hold the Key to FTA Ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Economic Times - - Economy - Kir­tika.Suneja @times­group.com

New Delhi: Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Make in In­dia plan and em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion could be­come key in de­cid­ing In­dia’s stand at free trade agree­ment ( FTA) ne­go­ti­a­tions, as sug­gested by ex­perts and peo­ple in­volved in such talks.

Go­ing be­yond the con­ven­tional aim of trade ex­pan­sion, the govern­ment may also look at link­ages be­tween trade and in­vest­ment while ne­go­ti­at­ing FTAs.

In a brain­storm­ing ses­sion last week among think tanks, for­mer and cur­rent trade ne­go­tia­tors and the com­merce de­part­ment led by Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man, it was agreed that one can­not have rigid po­si­tions in trade ne­go­ti­a­tions and that the ne­go­tia­tors must have some­thing in hand to ne­go­ti­ate.

“There must be clear ar­tic­ula- tion of red lines be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions and a larger po­lit­i­cal man­date is nec­es­sary for tak­ing de­ci­sions on key mat­ters,” said an of­fi­cial who was present in the meet­ing or­ga­nized by for­eign min­istry-run think tank Re­search and In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems for De­vel­op­ing Coun­tries. It, the of­fi­cial said, was a free­wheel­ing chat on trade is­sues faced by the govern­ment.

“Ex­perts opined that In­dia’s de­fen­sive strat­egy on FTA ne­go­ti­a­tions will not work,” said an­other of­fi­cial.

The is­sue of non-avail­abil­ity of data in ser­vices was also taken up and the need to ex­pand ser­vices be­yond the realm of IT and re­lated sec­tors.

“We dis­cussed that in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity for ne­go­ti­a­tions is im­por­tant, specif­i­cally with re- spect to longer ten­ure for ne­go­tia­tors,” the of­fi­cial said.

As a so­lu­tion, bring­ing back for­mer trade ne­go­tia­tors and mak­ing ma­jor­ity of trade ser­vices of­fi­cers sit in Udyog Bhawan, the seat of the com­merce and in­dus­try min­istry, was con­sid­ered. The meet­ing came a month af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice sug­gested set­ting up a spe­cialised team to ne­go­ti­ate in­ter­na­tional trade deals amid con­cerns that In­dia isn’t mov­ing fast enough on its FTAs, by de­vel­op­ing ex­per­tise and in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory like other coun­tries.

Se­nior of­fi­cials are said to have sug­gested new ways of re­viv­ing WTO’s mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing sys­tem and stay­ing watch­ful of the chang­ing trade en­vi­ron­ment.

On boost­ing ex­ports, the of­fi­cial said while there was no buyer for giv­ing in­cen­tives, there was con­sen­sus on im­prov­ing ex­port com­pet­i­tive­ness and mak­ing busi­nesses sus­tain­able.

Govt may also look at link­ages be­tween trade and in­vest­ment while ne­go­ti­at­ing

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