Instead of focusing on visas, we offer extensive service requests in FTAs: Trade Security

India has readjusted its demands to relax standards for the services sector under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), making it more expansive while negotiating such business deals, rather than focusing only on the easy visa for its professionals, Commerce Minister BVR Subrahmanyam on Thursday said. Earlier, he said India is fully focused on easy visa criteria for its FTA professionals.

“In terms of individual visas, I think there has also been a change and a reset in our requests in terms of services. We have been completely focused on the so-called Type 4 (Movement of Professionals) services.

Mode 4 means we need visas, visas, visas. What we are actually seeing globally is Status-4 is something that (India) gets independently, whether there is a free trade agreement or not,” he told reporters here.

He said the country has a young population, a highly skilled population, and people all over the world want IT professionals, lawyers, doctors, nurses and legal representatives.

“They’re taking your people anyway. So instead of focusing on one element, we’re expanding the demand for our services…I think we’ll have much more access in newer areas and I’m sure that even in this FTA (with the UK),” There will be some gains for us in the movement of people,” he told reporters here.

India and the United Kingdom on Thursday formally launched negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement, which is expected to double bilateral trade, from the current 50 billion US dollars, by 2030.

The Minister said this while answering a question that one of the drawbacks of FTAs ​​in the past was the inability to obtain secure visas or visas for people.

Recently, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to reject the notion that visa criteria would be relaxed for Indians in their quest for a free trade agreement with India.

During the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons, a Conservative MP asked Johnson to comment on reports that appeared in the British media over the weekend about easier visas for Indian professionals and students to make the FTA more attractive to India.

Commenting on the areas of interest in India’s service sector in the FTA with the UK, he said areas such as telecoms, information technology, travel and other business services have good potential.

Our exports of other business services reach $4 billion, and this is expected to rise to $20 billion. This can be anything – consulting, accounting, back office work. We are looking forward to achieving significant growth.”

On commodities, he said the sectors with maximum potential include fish, shrimp, textiles, clothing, chemicals, footwear, grains, iron and steel, precious stones and jewellery, and pharmaceutical products.

I see an increase or a rise in exports of about $35 billion in the next 10 years. This is huge, given that our exports are less than $10 billion today,” he said, adding that India would target these in the interim agreement.

Since India’s large population is dependent on agriculture, agricultural and dairy products will be “carefully monitored”.

“Farmers, MSMEs, we’ll care a little bit. England is not a high-strength agricultural powerhouse. So, they wouldn’t be under that kind of pressure to farm.

Moreover, the minister said that if India is to be a part of the ‘New Age’ FTAs, it needs to negotiate on all fronts.

“The fear that existed in the past does not exist anymore. However, that does not mean that we will embrace everything as it is.

He added that India and the UK are discussing 16 areas, including intellectual property rights, sustainability, competition, digital, women, micro, small and medium enterprises, anti-corruption and innovation.

“A lot of these areas are new to us… We may not have either the capabilities or the depth of knowledge or the experience… (But), if you don’t actually talk about these things, no one will enter into FTAs.

India is perhaps the only major economy in the world that is not part of a major free trade agreement or regional trading arrangement. You are excluded from market after market after market. He said the United States and the European Union are a common market, a free trade area in its own right, and the rest of Asia has received the RCEP.

“Where are we?”

The minister said India is in a trade surplus with the UK in both goods and services but if these small tariff barriers were not in place in the UK then India’s exports instead of $9 billion would be somewhere in the region of $35 billion.

He added: “You are not competing with the UK in the UK market. You are competing with Bangladesh, Vietnam and China in the UK market. If they have better access, you are left out. I think that is what we plan to open.”

“If you don’t talk about a whole range of topics, you don’t have a free trade agreement. We do that with the EU and even with the UK. Second, there’s nothing to worry about, because a lot of those things are the best endeavour deal,” he said. Agreements will not be enforceable.

Explaining this in more detail and citing an example, he said the anti-corruption issue would be related to transparency, keeping documents/tenders in public.

Similarly, MSMEs are more interested in promoting their exports and creating a facilitating environment for them to gain greater market access.

“There is nothing harmful there. The new era free trade agreements are good for India,” he said.



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