Food For Thought: India and the Mega PTAs

August 28, 2014, Bhubaneshwar

“Deepening of the plurilateral commercial relations elsewhere in the world is set to affect the emerging countries like India in many ways ,especially when they are excluded from the preferential trading arrangements (PTAs)between countries that have been their important trading partners”, said Purna Chandra Jena, Assistant policy Analyst, CUTS International.
Welcoming the participants to the meeting on ‘Mega PTAs and its impact on the Indian Economy’, 28th August 2014 in Bhubaneshwar, he noted: “Three of the main such upcoming external PTA s from India’s Perspective, are the Trans- Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) and the EU – ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA). Together the negotiating countries under these agreements account for well more than 40 percent of both India’s exports and imports. Thus it needs a special attention from all relevant stakeholders and from exporters- importers as well”.
The project titled “External Preferential Trade Agreements and Its impact on Indian Economy: Analysis of Impacts and Counter Measures” is supported by UK Aid. In Partnership with a number of local partners in Odisha like Utkal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UCCI), Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) and Director General of Foreign Trade, CUTS International arranged a Stakeholder Consultation Meeting in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
To generate awareness among the stakeholders, to obtain specific input from stakeholders about the impact of these external PTAs and also to sensitize policy makers as well as others stakeholders to prepare policy response which will prevent the negative impact on the Indian economy from these external PTAs was the main objectives of the meeting.
Speaking on the occasion chief Guest of the meeting, member of Lok Sabha, Rabindra Kumar Jena stressed upon the fact that the country should undertake empirical research before getting into such agreements. Citing the case of the Indian pharmaceutical industry’s success in Africa and elsewhere, he suggested that multilateral agreements with a careful study of the country’s strength and the available opportunities in the international market would fetch the country better returns.
Vivek Pattanayak (IAS retired) set the tone of discussion by arguing that External PTAs are against the spirit of existing multilateral framework. However, he supports the concept that India should accept PTAs routs as all the countries are moving in the direction of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Ashis Dash, Cuttack-based Deputy Director Foreign trade, was of the opinion that PTAs are here to stay and more than 300 such agreements exist internationally at present. He gave a historic explanation of World Trade Organisation (WTO), PTAs and FTAs.
Purna Chandra Jena, Assistant Policy Analyst, CUTS International, Jaipur a Rajasthan-based think tank, elaborated the topic and also spoke about the WTO Plus issues such as labour standards, Intellectual property Rights etc.
BS Pani, UCCI executive member recounted his experience to underline that bilateral agreements are required to address the needs of the country. He added that irrespective of the type of agreement, the country has to work on improving its credibility first and set quickly in order its internal affairs affecting the economy if it seeks success in international trade.
Rajen Padhi, UCCI chairman of International Trade Committee suggested that rather embarking upon WTO framework completely India should focus on having a strategic mix of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral agreements.
“Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and that bilateral trade with these regions can be carried out as the counter measure for this issue”, said Purna Chandra Jena.
There was a consensus among the participants that these PTAs will affect the sectors such as agricultural commodities, processed food, textile wearing apparel and heavy manufacturing industries. They elaborated on possible countermeasures such as to focus on bilateral trade agreements with these mega PTA regions, focus on capacity building and invest heavily on capacity building.
This meeting is expected to culminate the various possible impacts on India due to the deepening of the Mega PTAs and the possible way out to counter these impacts.

For more information, please contact
Purna Chandra Jena, +91-9351441867,
Aditi Roy, +91-8741861680,