IBSA plan to accelerate trilateral FTA talks

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    Feb 16, 2009
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    The Hindu : Business / Industry : IBSA plan to accelerate trilateral FTA talks

    In an attempt to accelerate talks on a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) , the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit that ended on Tuesday decided to hold an annual meeting of trade ministers from the three countries beginning from March next year. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has offered to host the first annual trilateral meeting in New Delhi in March next.

    The analysis at the IBSA meet is that trilateral trade has done well despite the 2008 economic slowdown and its aftershocks, including the prevailing uncertainties in the eurozone.

    $25 b trade by 2015

    Trilateral trade is already close to $20 billion, having crossed the target set for 2012 three years earlier than envisaged. India's trade with its trade partners in IBSA accounts for a majority of this trade. The leaders at the IBSA summit felt that the trends indicated that the target of $25 billion trade by 2015 would be achieved early, and “this gave reasons to be optimistic and more ambitious,'' said an official note.

    The leaders tasked the Working Group on Trade and Investment to examine all issues related to trade holistically, including issues relating to non-tariff barriers, maritime and air links and opportunities for investments. Direct air connectivity is expected to give tourism a major boost and the trade ministers agreed to look at the visa related issues so that the process for business visas is made easy. The three trade ministers also interacted with the IBSA Business forum a day earlier.

    To set up technical team

    The trade ministers also decided to set up a technical team under the IBSA's working group on trade and investment to reconcile trade data and devise a common reporting format. Due to different methodologies of capturing trade data (calendar year v financial year or CIF or FOB) at times the numbers vary.

    The South African and Indian trade ministers also decided to enter into long-term contracts for purchase of raw materials and commodities, and the recently opened office of MMTC in South Africa has been asked by Mr. Sharma to begin work on this proposal immediately.

    The Ministers also felt that with the ratification process of the MERCOSUR SACU FTA advancing, and initiation of the process of deepening of the India MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), the deck was now clear for making progress on a trilateral FTA involving India SACU and MERCOSUR.

    “This FTA linking developing countries in the three continents is envisaged as one of the most ambitious free trade areas and will be a symbol of growing south-south cooperation,'' noted Mr. Sharma. His sentiment was shared by his counterparts from Brazil and South Africa.

    The three ministers also plan to meet before the WTO's 8th Ministerial conference in mid-December to coordinate their position on all issues relating to the WTO negotiations and to discuss the possible outcomes of MC8 as well as the way forward on Doha Development round.

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