WTO Current Affairs

Government releases National Trade Facilitation Action Plan

The Union Government released the 76 point National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP). It was released by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi.

The NTFAP has been adopted by the National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF), reflecting Government’s commitment to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

Key Facts

Aims of the action plan: Transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, co-ordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.

Objectives of the action plan: Achieve improvement in ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost, transparent and predictable legal regime, move towards paperless regulatory environment and improved investment climate through better infrastructure.

Activities listed in the Action Plan: It lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, FSSAI, DGFT etc. in time bound manner. The co-ordination among all the stakeholders is the key to achieve the objective of Trade facilitation.

It not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but also goes beyond the ambit of TFA, defined as TFA Plus category. It covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructures leading to ports, airports, Land Customs stations, ICDs that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries like Civil Aviation, Shipping, Railways, Home Affairs, Road transport and Highways, Finance, Commerce etc have been assigned specified targets. All actions falling under the plan have been categorised by prioritising the activities into short term, mid-term and long-term activities.

Monitoring of the plan: The plan will be monitored by the Steering Committee (the operational arm of the NCTF) chaired by the Revenue Secretary and the Commerce Secretary. Further it will be reviewed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Background

Earlier in August 2016, the Union Government had constituted NCTF headed by the Cabinet Secretary in accordance with Article 23.2 of the WTO-TFA. It comprises stakeholders from the Government and the private sectors including trade community. It is headed by Cabinet Secretary.

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India moves WTO against US

India has moved the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US as it has not yet complied with the rulings of the WTO pertaining to imposition of high import duty on certain Indian steel products.

In December 2014, the WTO’s appellate body pronounced a ruling against the act of US which is imposing high import duty on certain Indian steel products. It had ruled that the imposition of import duty on steel products was inconsistent with various provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.  

The Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (the SCM Agreement) – addresses two separate but closely related matters-The multilateral disciplines on the use of subsidies and the conditions under which Members may apply countervailing measures.

India has sought consultation with the US for compliance of the WTO’s rulings. If the US refuses to comply then India has planned to approach the WTO’s compliance panel.

In order to comply with the WTO rulings on countervailing duties on imports of hot-rolled carbon steel products from India, the US needs to amend its domestic norms.

Earlier, the US had moved the arbitration panel of the WTO against India as it complained that India had failed to remove trade restrictions on American poultry.

WTO

The WTO is an inter-governmental organization for governments to negotiate global trade agreements and progressively liberalizing trade. The WTO operates a system of trade rules that apply to all its members. The WTO is also a place for Member governments to settle their trade disputes. Its located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was established on 1 January 1995 and its official languages are English, French and Spanish.

Countervailing duties are those duties that are imposed by a country to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers.

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