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Go the whole hog on regional trade pacts, says Kamal Nath

Financial Express, India

18 November 2004

Go the whole hog on regional trade pacts, says Kamal Nath


NEW DELHI, NOV 17: Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said at the economic editors’ conference here on Wednesday, that bilateral trade agreements will serve as engines for international trade. “India would prefer to term such co-operation as economic partnership rather than free trade agreements (FTAs),” he said. The country is already in the process of finalising comprehensive economic co-operation agreement (CECA) with Singapore and is interested in greater economic co-operation through Safta (South Asia free trade agreement), South Asian association for regional co-operation (Saarc) and association of South-East Asian nations (Asean).

Globally, at least 50-60% of trade is already outside the multilateral system. Regional and bilateral trade is on the rise. India should also go by this trend.

Mr Nath said, “the emphasis today is on employment generating exports as opposed to dollar generating exports, as in the past. India needs to enhance its capability for export of value-added products.” Indian merchandise exports are surging and are likely to touch $75 billion. If we subtract oil imports our exports exceed imports today, he added.

“The government will also conclude all trade related issues with Bangladesh within three months,” he said.

Addressing a question on the post multi-fibre agreement scenario, he said the European Union was excluding India from the generalised system of preferences (GSP) as it qualified high and did not need these preferences.

The government, however, has managed to retain India as part of the system. “While textile exports to the US are likely to go up from 4% to 15% with the dismantling of MFA, Indian textile industry must consolidate,” he added.