Commerce ministry working on standard operating procedure for FTA negotiation


The commerce ministry held deliberations with experts, former officers and senior officials from different departments on framing a standard operating procedure for free trade pacts and other related issues under these agreements, an official release said on Tuesday. The commerce ministry in the release stated that the ‘Chintan Shivir’ was organised on May 16-17 at Neemrana, Rajasthan. “The Shivir facilitated discussions on various issues related to negotiations of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) by India, its position and strategy that should be adopted for such negotiations,” the ministry said. The participants also deliberated on standard operating procedures (SoP) for FTA negotiations, capacity building and resource management for trade negotiations as well as certain contemporary issues under modern FTAs such as labour, environment, and gender. It said that Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal spearheaded the deliberations which sought to chart a strategic course for India’s future engagement in FTA negotiations. Economic assessment and modelling of FTAs, addressing new disciplines into FTAs such as labour, environment, gender, and indigenous people; and services and digital trade in FTAs were among the main themes for discussions, it said. SoP for FTA negotiations including stakeholder consultations; capacity building and FTA resource management; and leveraging trade agreements to address emerging areas such as CBAM (carbon border adjustment mechanism), supply chain disruptions, critical minerals, and artificial intelligence were also discussed. It said that participants in the economic assessment session highlighted that detailed economic studies, including models like computable general equilibrium, are necessary to guide FTA negotiations. The participants also discussed the need for careful consideration of trade and industrial policies together. On the digital trade issue, the experts and officials discussed the challenges of data sovereignty, consumer protection and cybersecurity. The session also explored India’s data adequacy issues under the EU GDPR (European Union General Data Protection Regulation) and the significant challenges posed by the evolving landscape of e-commerce and digital trade. In the SOP session, speakers and participants discussed the drafting of SOP and its benefits in enhancing the objectives of trade agreements and creating documentational or institutional memory for future negotiations, it added. “Participants discussed the challenge of on-the-spot drafting requiring mechanisms to draft agreements in real-time during negotiations to ensure clarity and immediate consensus, and how the negotiators can ensure that commitments undertaken are pre-approved,” the ministry said. Speakers also highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary support noting that successful negotiations require expertise in law, economics, data analytics, and industry-specific knowledge. In a different session, the ministry said, it also emerged during discussions that India should negotiate a dedicated chapter on critical minerals or critical minerals-based agreements, especially with such mineral-rich countries to protect India from abrupt disruption in the supply chain.


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