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Government aims at enhancing FTA boons

NEW DELHI, Apr 15, 2016, DHNS: 23:31 IST
Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.
India will seek more market access from partner countries with whom it has signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and will find ways to increase its goods and services exports in the wake of criticism that FTAs have only increased imports.

The government will also expedite domestic reforms and work towards removing infrastructure bottlenecks, ensure regular power supply, especially to small and medium enterprises which account for more than 40% of India’s exports in order to gain on FTAs.

This, and other issues to increase India’s foreign trade were discussed in a brainstorming event chaired by Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday. She discussed with economists, trade experts and officials in the wake of India’s exports showing a lacklustre performance in the past 15 months. Moves to increase India’s agriculture exports were also discussed in the five-hour long meeting the minister called on a public holiday.

Currently, there are 19 FTAs in various stages of negotiation. Of these, India is aggressively pushing for conclusion of agreements with Australia and Canada. FTA with the European Union, Israel and New Zealand is in advance stages.

Experts also suggested about vigorously pursuing commerce with countries like Japan and other Asian nations with whom China’s trade have deteriorated.

“Trade in goods and services and investment should be viewed in an integrated manner,” suggested Ram Upendra Das, Professor at Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), which organised the meeting.

Creation of a social safety fund was also discussed. The fund could help sectors which suffer adverse impact due to FTAs. Experts were of the view that India should re-work on its strength in trade in services at all levels.

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