Sitharaman complains of ‘sledging’ in FTA talks
The Dollar Business Bureau
Referring to the purported attempts by some nations to depict India as “obstructionist” in the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) talks, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that ‘sledging’ or orally bullying the opponent to attain advantage, not only happens in the game of cricket but also in FTA negotiations.
The commerce minister was addressing an event organised on Sunday by Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a think tank on global issues.
Dismissing the allegations that New Delhi’s “negative and protectionist” attitude was the reason for delays in agreements, she said that the delays were, however, due to the partner nations, who are opposing India’s ‘ambitious offers’ in terms of services and investment.
The negotiations are going on for FTAs with European Union, Australia and RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), among 16 nations from Asia-Pacific, also comprising India.
Having its forte in the trade of services, India has been proposing for elimination of restrictions on temporary movement of skilled workers in all these FTAs, on a mutual basis.
The proposal had even received support from China in the RCEP negotiations. However, the proposal had been declined by the EU, Australia and few members of RCEP as they were apprehensive that the Indian workers would be an employment threat for the locals.
The Commerce Minister said that countries like Australia and EU want removal of tariffs from India on even the sensitive products like agriculture (eg wheat) and industrial sectors (like automobiles) with regard to the proposed FTAs. However, she said that India will not succumb to such type of pressures.
The minister said that the ‘high trade-distorting’ subsidies on agricultural items by rich countries had not still been appropriately discussed at the WTO.
Mentioned about the subsidies provided by Beijing to its industry, she said this was hurting the manufacturers in India in industries such as steel.