Centre plans Special 301-type export report

Business Standard, July 20, 2014
Report to enumerate non-tariff barriers faced by Indian firms and exporters abroad

The government is planning to bring out an annual export report, enumerating the non-tariff barriers faced by Indian firms and exporters abroad. This will be similar to the US’s Special 301 Report, which identifies trade barriers to US companies in other countries, as well as the means to resolve those.

These reports, to be brought out along with the foreign trade policy, would primarily focus on regions such as the US, Europe, Japan and China, where Indian companies, especially exporters, faced various challenges such as unfair competition, price negotiation and technical barriers, a senior commerce department official told Business Standard, on the condition of anonymity.

“It has always been our aim to expand Indian exports. In that endeavour, the government is seriously considering several measures. One of these is bringing out such a report, depicting the various non-tariff measures our exporters have been facing in some traditional markets. This will not only help address the issues head-on, but could also be used in bilateral and, if need be, multilateral negotiations,” the official said.

He added once such a mechanism was established, it would be much easier to challenge any World Trade Organization (WTO)-member country that unfairly blocked Indian exports. Such reports might also be useful while resolving any trade-related dispute at the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

While the Office of US Trade Representative brings out the Special 301 Report, the EU brings out a similar report – the Trade and Investment Barriers Report. Emerging economies such as China and South Africa, too, bring out such reports.

Pradeep Mehta, secretary-general of CUTS International and member of WTO’s high-level panel on ‘Future of Trade in the 21st Century’, says, “While the process behind taking the US to dispute settlement at the WTO will entail a considerable amount of time and resources, India could benefit from a mechanism that will make it mandatory for a government department or an independent body to list barriers against Indian exports in different countries.”

In May this year, the US Special 301 Report lambasted India’s intellectual property rights (IPR) laws and recommended “out-of-cycle reviews” to monitor the IPR regime. However, India has maintained its IPR laws are compliant with global trading rules under WTO.

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