South Asia trade pact on services need strategic changes, remarks Mr. Ameer
“The world that we live in today is more prosperous than ever before with the benefits of openness being felt at all levels of society in almost all corners of the world. Standards of living have risen and over a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty over the last thirty years. However, it is alarming to see signs of possible deviation from international cooperation and integration. We are facing challenges to the rule-based trading system. Rejecting international integration is not a solution, as foregoing the potential gains from trade that can still be repeated equates to condemning millions,” warned Mr. Ibrahim Ameer, Hon’ble Minister of Finance, Government of Maldives at the inaugural session of the 8th Global Economic Summit on ‘Services: Enabler of Growth for Trade and Industry’.
The Summit is organized by MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai and All India Association of Industries.
Speaking about the potential for cooperation among South Asian countries in the services sector, the minister said, “South Asian region, with a population of more than 1.8 billion people, is the world’s largest market. Although South Asian countries have signed an agreement in trade in services, this agreement is not working effectively. Therefore, strategic changes are required to utilize the agreement to full potential,” the minister added.
Speaking on this occasion, Dr. Aaditya Mattoo, Research Manager, Trade and International Integration, Development Research Group, World Bank said, “India must adopt an innovative approach to international cooperation in the services sector. Such an approach calls for negotiating domestic regulatory reforms to satisfy the interest of consumers in our import partners and securing reciprocal cooperation from foreign countries in other regulatory areas.”
Speaking about employment creation in the service sector, Dr. Mattoo said, “Availability of skilled labor is the critical factor for productivity in the services sector. When it comes to job creation in the service sector, skill scarcity is a greater problem than skill intensity. In order to promote skill development, the government must encourage competition, remove burdensome regulation and introduce progressive policies in higher education.”
Dr. Robert B. Koopman, Chief Economic and Director, Economic Research and Statistics Division, World Trade Organisation remarked, “Although services account for only 22% of world trade, this understates the importance of this sector to the economy. The services sector contributes 49% of world trade in value-added terms and it accounts for 50% of world employment. Efficient service sector plays an important role in enhancing the competitiveness of agriculture and manufacturing sectors in an economy. Services such as logistics and finance are a crucial ingredient for trade in goods. Advancement in information and communication technologies will reduce the cost of service trade across borders.”
Speaking about services trade in the age of technology advancement, Dr. Koopman said, “In recent years, trade in computer services, intellectual property services and other commercial services have gained more importance than traditional services such as travel and transport. India tops in the export of computer services after the European Union.”
Proposing vote of thanks for the event, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries (AIAI) remarked, “MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai and AIAI are working closely with multilateral organizations such as WTO on issues such as intellectual property rights and trade facilitation to promote trade and industry. India is already the fastest growing economy with an annual growth of 7.2%. The pace of growth can be enhanced further to 10% with better adoption of technology by industry. I am confident that this Summit will generate fruitful discussion to take the Indian economy to a higher growth orbit.”
The three-day Summit is supported by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Ministry of MSME and other departments of the central government and some state governments.
The inaugural session of the Summit was attended by more than 400 Indian and international delegates representing trade and industry, consular corps, academic institutions, and think tanks, among others.
During the inaugural session, distinguished delegates released Handbook on ‘Services: Enabler of Growth for Trade and Industry’. The Handbook is a compilation of articles and case studies from experts in the field of the services industry.