13 Jun 2013

Presentation by Prof. Cottier at The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India

The World Trade Institute was honoured to be the Knowledge Partner of The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) of India’s National Council on WTO’s International Conference on “Opportunities and Challenges arising out of India’s FTAs” - a conference series on “Emerging Trade Policy Issues in Good Governance”.

The conference took place on 4 June 2013 at Le Meridien hotel in New Delhi and brought together government officials, industry representatives, academics and practitioners. The line-up of the plenary session of the conference consisted of distinguished speakers: Mr S.R. Rao, Secretary, Department of Commerce, Government of India, Mr Sharad Mahendra, Vice President JSW Steel Ltd. and Mrs Sushma Berlia, President, Apeejay Stya & Svran Group. Prof. Thomas Cottier delivered the theme speech via videoconferencing. The inaugural speech was given by MILE alumnus Mr Santanu Mukherjee, Senior Attorney, Government Affairs at Qualcomm India Pvt. Ltd. and Chairman of ASSOCHAM WTO National Council.

The conference focused on India’s Free Trade Agreements within the spectrum of the Multilateral Trading System and national interests, taking into account government and industry perspectives. Challenges such as the inclusion of the Indian economy in the globalised economy and international value chains were discussed. Prof. Cottier addressed the dialectical and mutually dependent relationship between Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and the Multilateral Trading System. He mentioned the inclusion of China into the WTO might be a reason for the rise of RTAs. Prof. Cottier also addressed the shift from trade liberalisation to trade regulation, with regulatory harmonisation being an important issue with regard to FTAs.  Mr S.R. Rao, Secretary of the Department of Commerce emphasised the importance of integrating the Indian industry into global value chains to get the best value for manufacturing activities. As examples he described South East Asian countries being integrated into Chinese value chains. He mentioned the Trade Portal of the Department of Commerce, an online database, which supports Indian exporters. Mr S.R. Rao pointed out that the government is trying to reduce the transaction costs that impede trade. Finally Mr S.R. Rao stressed the aims of increasing the GDP and job creation for 100 million Indians. Industry representatives mentioned the lack of infrastructure, which diminishes competitiveness of Indian exporters compared to other countries, e.g. in the steel industry. 

The plenary session was followed by two technical sessions. The first session covered the topics “Removing Barriers to Trade and Investment in FTAs” and “Promoting Trade in Services under FTAs”. The second session focused on “Creating Effective Institutional Mechanism for Government-Industry Interface to Realize FTA Objectives”. Both the sessions brought industry leaders, trade practitioners, senior government officials and academia together to address these issues. The conference closed with the valedictory address by India’s chief WTO negotiator, Mr Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce. One key point that Mr Kher stressed was that, to do well, the Indian industry needs to be competitive in the global market.