Geneva: India has promised preferential market access for services suppliers from the poorest countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO)—an offer that has enhanced New Delhi’s image as a generous partner of the least developed countries (LDCs) in global trade.
The Indian offer includes market access for short-term contractual services suppliers and independent professions (what is called Mode 4 supply of services in trade jargon) in sectors such as engineering services, integrated engineering services, computer and related services and management consulting services.
The offer also includes access to project management services other than for construction, hotel and other lodging services, travel agency and tour operator services and a quota of 250 tourist guides in non-English foreign languages.
New Delhi has announced that it will waive the visa fee for applicants from these countries applying for Indian business or employment visas. High visa fee in industrialized countries is one of the biggest barriers for services suppliers from the poorest nations.
At a high-level meeting convened by WTO on Thursday for implementing what is called the waiver for preferential treatment to services providers from these nations, India’s generous and substantive offer seemed several notches ahead of what industrialized countries announced to assist the poorest countries, several trade envoys said.
As part of the Bali ministerial declaration, trade ministers had directed industrialized countries and developing countries to indicate what they are willing to offer to LDCs at a high-level meeting.
“India made an excellent offer to provide substantial market access and also technical assistance to train our services suppliers in different sectors," said the LDC coordinator, ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr of Uganda.
Aparr said he was disappointed with offers from some industrialized countries, describing them as empty promises.
“India made most creative statement to operationalize the LDC waiver by offering access in a range of sectors coupled with the promise to build the supply-side capacity-building," an industrialized country official said on condition of anonymity.
As part of technical assistance and capacity building to enable LDCs to supply quality services, India will train financial candidates from LDCs at the Reserve Bank of India and also “conduct specially designed course for around 1,000 LDC professional each year in areas such as Management Consulting, Technical Consulting, and Project Management".
New Delhi will also accord priority to training LDC professionals and consultants in areas such as insurance services, promotion of micro, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and rural development sectors, and railway infrastructure services. India will assist LDCs to promote their trade and tourism exports along with creative industry services such as audio-visual co-production agreements.
Besides India, China, Mexico, the European Union (EU), Canada, Australia, Norway, Japan and Switzerland, among others, made several offers in different sectors, particularly areas concerning short-term services providers, and technical assistance and capacity-building.
The US, however, took a back seat by saying it would need time to learn from the high-level meeting before making any concrete offers, said participants at the meeting.
“I’m encouraged by the overall positive response from the developed and developing countries to address the two issues—market access and capacity-building and technical assistance—for services providers in the least developed countries," the chair for the council for trade in services, ambassador Choi Seokyoung, said.
Ugandan trade minister Amelia Kyambadde said there are a “lot positive elements in the offers made by members and we need time to digest them". She said the next step is how soon the best offers made by members will be operationalized.
A tentative deadline of end-July has been agreed for enabling members to make notifications of the proposals they suggested at the meeting.
Among the industrialized countries, the EU said it would offer enhanced access to contractual services suppliers for providing independent services and graduate trainees. Brussels also promised that it would extend preferential access for services in the Economic Partnership Agreements to LDC countries.
Canada said it would provide full market access in three-quarters of all services sectors to LDCs while Australia came up with specific proposals concerning short-term services providers, and capacity-building and technical assistance to train LDC services providers in computer and business services at Adelaide university.