India to focus on Trade Facilitation pact for services at WTO meet

Nirmala Sitharaman
India will be focusing on the Trade Facilitation Agreement for services at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

Talking about a concept note introduced by India at the WTO last year, Sitharaman said India's position reflected that of other major nations with a strength on trade in services.

The ministry has worked on this and has also taken a legal vetting, she added.

Major member economies of the WTO, such as India and the US, are expected to talk on trade-related issues on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos later this month.

On new issues like e-commerce, Sitharaman stressed that while India was open to talks on the issue, it should be included in the agenda only after a consensus emerges among members.

India is pitching for this agreement as the services sector contributes about 60 per cent to its GDP and accounts for 28 per cent of the total workforce.

The note was aimed at reducing transaction costs by doing away with unnecessary regulatory procedures and reducing the administrative burden on trade in services. In its note, India has proposed for simplification of procedures and clarity in work permits and visas for smooth movement of professionals.

Developed nations want the WTO to start negotiations on e-commerce and investments instead of carrying on further discussions on development-related issues from the erstwhile Doha Round.

The WTOs ministerial meeting, held once in two years, is set to be held in December in Argentina.

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