Home >Politics >Policy >India submits draft text at WTO for trade facilitation in services

New Delhi: A day after the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) in goods under the World Trade Organization (WTO) came into force, India submitted the draft legal text at the multilateral body for a similar agreement in services.

“We have submitted the legally vetted paper today. First, it will be discussed within the council for trade in services during 14-17 March after which we will approach other members to build awareness about our proposal," trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters on Thursday.

India is seeking to push the proposal at the upcoming biannual WTO ministerial meeting in Argentina in December.

Like the agreement in goods trade, the proposed agreement is expected to cover discrepancies in trade in services as well as procedural and administrative issues and principles that apply to all. It will not delve into market access issues because that will involve domestic regulations which the proposed agreement does not seek to address.

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India first submitted the concept paper for trade facilitation in services on 6 October and followed it up with an “element paper" with more details before it submitted the draft legal text on Thursday.

India also wishes to address the contentious issue of professional visa fee hikes by the likes of the US and UK, which India has been claiming are discriminatory.

India has often raised its concern over such visa fee hikes, including recent protectionist moves under US President Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the matter at a meeting with a visiting US Congressional delegation, calling for a “reflective, balanced and farsighted" perspective on movement of skilled professionals.

The TFA in goods was the first multilateral trade deal in 21 years signed in Bali in 2013 for easing cross-border custom rules for faster movement of goods.

It came into force on Wednesday after the required 110 members ratified the agreement out of the total 164 members.

The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day-and-a-half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47% and 91% respectively from the current average, according to the WTO.

The TFA requires developing countries to build infrastructure capacity for faster clearance of cross-border shipments without hassles. India has also taken on a binding commitment for faster shipment for air cargo companies under the agreement.

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