Trade Facilitation Priorities in India and Commitments at WTO: An Overview of Current Trends

Abstract: The current mandate of the Negotiating Group for Trade Facilitation (NGTF) is to clarify and improve the three articles, viz. Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994. India has initiated several measures as part of the Trade Facilitation (TF) programme. While most of the measures have already been put in place in the context of Articles VIII and X, the ones left involve significant costs and require careful planning for implementation. In case of Article V, there are certainly major gaps. In countries like India, where trade facilitation is an ongoing exercise, precise cost estimation is a difficult preposition.This includes additional efforts required to support and strengthen the level of communication at the border points. Most of the Land Customs Stations (LCSs) require better infrastructure. The current TF programme may have to go beyond current mandate and take into account specific WTO commitments which may emerge during the ongoing negotiations as per the GATT Articles V, VIII and X. In this paper, an effort is made to take stock of the needs, priorities and cost of implementation of these Articles for India. These ground realities hold important implications for any undertaking by India at the TF negotiations of the WTO. However, given the considerable infrastructural gaps, the Indian negotiating team should exhibit extreme caution towards the new proposals and ideas but should display pragmatism, at least for the measures that have already been implemented in India.