July 22, 2005, Business Standard

“The five-year National Foreign Trade Policy adopted by the Government of India is a step in the right direction. This is not only in consonance with the letter and spirit of the National Common Minimum Programme, but also will help India achieving a greater role in international trade negotiations,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, while welcoming its announcement. The Policy has several innovative measures to achieve the twin objectives of increasing India’s share from the current level of approximately one percent to 1.5 percent of world trade by 2009 and employment generation at a mass scale, he added.

The proposal to form a Board of Trade is welcome. However, the Commerce Minister should head this Board. Only then there will be political legitimacy of its activities. Instead eminent persons could head sub-groups, which will look at specific issues. Members of the Board and its sub-groups should be drawn from various fields, representing different interests such as business, consumers, trade unions, political parties, state government officials.

“Meeting the objectives of the Policy will crucially depend on the role of the state governments vis-à-vis international trade,” argued Bipul Chatterjee, Director of CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment. For a better political buy-in of this Policy, the Government of India should conduct regular consultation with state government officials, local chambers and other interested parties. The Government should also urge the states to form state trade bodies, which can act as a platform to discuss and debate issues relating to international trade and their implications on the ground, Chatterjee suggested.

“It is heartening to see that the Policy is based on the principle of achieving coherence between the emerging international trading system and national development strategy as in today’s world, international trade is much more than export and import,” said Mehta. This Policy will strengthen India’s position during the Doha Round of WTO negotiations. Other than this broad policy direction, the Government should also come out with a domestic agenda of reforms taking into consideration the Framework Agreement on the basis of which the Doha Round of WTO negotiations is being held. This will help our negotiators to place proactive demands, based on ground realities, at the negotiating table.