The Economic Times | 31 May 2016
India chasing free trade agreements with Israel, Gulf & Eurasia
NEW DELHI: India is eyeing trade deals with the European Union, Israel , Gulf countries and Eurasian region to deepen its trading engagement and revive exports, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said. Highlighting her ministry’s achievements in the last two years.
Sitharaman also said the government had ensured equal opportunity for Indian farmers against developed world farmers at the World Trade Organization. "Our farmers
were at a disadvantage and after Nairobi (WTO ministerial conference ), we have achieved level playing field making developed countries to withdraw their export subsidies," she said at a conference on Monday.
She also allayed fears on any threat to the country’s public distribution system, minimum
support price and food security. The minister said India is working to ink new free trade
agreements (FTAs) with Israel, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Eurasian
Economic Union . Among those in progress are Bilateral Trade and Investment
Agreement with the EU and an FTA with Australia. The cabinet has approved expansion
of preferential trade agreement with Chile.
Sitharaman said the EU is waiting for a decision on the Brexit (possible British exit from
EU) and dates to resume negotiations for the long-stalled proposed trade agreement are
yet to be finalised. "We want to work with the EU. We want to sign that agreement. We
shall move forward and talk. Of course, the dates are still not given," she said and added
that Australia is going through elections.
She said a framework is being drafted for the proposed India-Iran preferential trade
agreement while the country is actively moving forward on other trade pacts including the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Israel and GCC.
A joint study group has been set for a pact between India and the Eurasian union,
comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and the first draft report is ready. With Peru,
Sitharaman said a joint study group has been set up to explore the possibility of entering
into a free trade agreement. The government is also reviewing its trade pacts with Asean
and Sri Lanka.
Asked about losses in revenue when trade agreements are signed, the minister said, "We
are talking to finance (ministry) to understand if, eventually whether in a plurilateral or
bilateral agreement, duties have to come down. We meet finance (ministry) to tell us as to what are the implications in terms of revenue loss."
Commenting on the burgeoning trade deficit with China, she said the government is
collecting data from industry to bring in safeguard duties and anti-dumping duties to stop
imports causing injury to the local industry.
Trade deficit with China swelled to $44.7 billion during April-January period of 2015-16.
India’s exports to China stood at $7.56 billion during the period whereas imports jumped
to $52.26 billion. In 2014-15, the deficit was aggregated at $48.48 billion.
India has so far initiated 322 anti-dumping cases out of which 177 cases involve China.